Tumors of the liver can be classified as primary or metastatic. Moreover, primary tumors can be benign or malignant. These benign tumors are quite rare, but have been reported with increasing frequency in women taking oral contraceptives for long periods. Most benign tumors have no symptoms and may regress when the oral contraceptives are discontinued. Liver cancer is more common than benign tumors and you must have the knowledge about this in order to know what you can do to prevent it or manage and treat it.
The predisposing risk factors of liver cancer which led to its development are chronic liver disease from hepatitis, alcoholic and post necrotic cirrhosis, long term androgenic therapy, long term use of oral contraceptive and exposure to inorganic arsenic, vinyl chloride, and various pesticides which are harmful to the liver. These risk factors are somehow linked to the development of liver cancer.
Primary liver tumors may originate in the liver cells, bile ducts, or both. The lesions may be singular, nodular or diffuse, and may involve only a lobe or the entire liver. The malignant cells compress the surrounding normal liver cells and may spread by invading the branches of the portal vein, causing the liver to be enlarged and misshapen. Hemorrhage and necrosis are common. Direct extension of the tumor to the gallbladder, mesentery, peritoneum and diaphragm is also possible too. Primary liver tumors commonly metastasize to the lung and also metastasize to the portal lymph nodes, adrenal glands, spleen, kidney, ovaries and pancreas.
Liver cancer symptoms may be absent, minimal, or severe depending on the tumor size and the hepatocellular damage. It can be manifested by weight loss and hepatomegaly with pain or tenderness in the right upper quadrant. Other common findings include a mass in the liver, blood tinged ascites and cachexia. Jaundice is uncommon until the terminal stage of the disease.
Prevention of liver cancer is directed at those factors that have been identified as predisposing individuals to risk. The potential for controlling this type of carcinoma through prevention of chronic liver disease from cirrhosis and hepatitis is excellent and deserves special attention. Immunization against hepatitis B virus is an effective method of prevention and should be used at a personal and community level as indicated.
Long term survival of patients with malignancies of the liver is dismal. Treatment is supportive and similar to that of patients with cirrhosis. Surgical resection is considered when there is no cirrhosis, the lesion is located in a surgically accessible area and is not multicentric and there is no spread to adjacent organs.
Other treatment modalities have been used but are only palliative. Intra-arterial infusion of chemotherapeutic agents to deliver high concentration of drugs to the tumor with fewer side effects than systemic chemotherapy can be opted. Hepatic artery embolization which reduces the blood flow to the tumor has only a short term effect due to the rapid development of collateral blood flow. Radiation therapy is also used to reduce the size of the tumor.
These are the basic facts that you need to consider when it comes to cancer of the liver. Knowledge about this kind of condition helps you think what actions that you must do in order to take care of the liver and prevent cancer.