The liver is one of the most important organs of the body as it is responsible for filtering the blood continuously for converting nutrients into necessary chemicals that are required by the body for various important purposes. The liver can develop cancer with a tumor originating in itself or through spread of cancerous cells from cancer from another part of the body.
The cancer which originates in the cells of the liver itself is called as 'primary liver cancer', while the cancer which is spread (metastasizes) to the liver from another part of the body is called as 'secondary liver cancer'.
The secondary liver cancer types are the most common type of cancer and are spread to the liver from another organ or part of the body.
As the liver consists of several different types of cells, the cancers that affect it are also categorized into different types. Some of the tumorous growths in the liver can be non-cancerous (benign) in nature, while others can metastasize (spread) to other surrounding parts and organs of the body.
These different types of tumors have different causes and hence their treatment also varies.
The common benign (non-cancerous) tumors of the liver are:
These types of benign tumors are usually removed through surgical excision if they cause bleeding or pain.
The primary liver cancer (Hepatocellular carcinoma) usually develops in persons whose liver might be damaged due to:
Although liver cancer causes no noticeable symptoms on its own, the growing tumor may cause a feeling of fullness too soon while eating, or even pain in the right side of the abdomen.
The other common signs and symptoms of advanced liver cancer (usually caused due to an underlying medical disease or disorder) are:
In case a liver cancer is suspected the doctor is likely to advise:
The extent of cancer's spread, as well as the overall functionality of the liver affected by liver cancer, determine the type of treatment required for it.
These are the commonly performed treatments for liver cancer:
Liver cancer surgery involves removing the cancer-affected portion of the liver using surgical methods. This is an ideal treatment method for tumors in the liver that are smaller in size.
This procedure requires the surgeon to remove the affected liver completely and replace it with a healthy liver from a donor. This is an ideal form of treatment in cases of advanced cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and the tumor cannot be removed using surgical methods.
This procedure works by killing the cancerous cells in the affected liver using non-surgical and non-invasive methods. This technique may use heat or laser energy to kill the cancerous cells from outside the body or it may use special alcohol/acid injected into the liver to destroy the cancer cells in it. This is mostly used in the palliative care phase of liver cancer treatment.
This liver cancer treatment technique involves blocking the blood supply to cancer using catheters to inject particles/artificial beads to block the particular blood vessel that connects to the tumor. Lack of blood supply eventually results in shrinking of the tumor in size. This is an ideal form of pre-treatment procedure for larger-sized liver cancers (tumors) and is used as a palliative method.
Chemotherapy uses a set of specially-designed medicinal drugs to destroy the cancer cells in the liver. These drugs can be administered orally, or through intravenous methods (injections/catheters) directly into the liver.
Radiotherapy (radiation therapy) uses high-energy rays of particles (such as x-rays) to target the tumor in the liver and destroy it with the intense heat generated by it.
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