The liver is a vital organ located behind the lungs in the central part of the torso. It performs a wide variety of functions, including protein synthesis, detoxification, and the production of chemicals necessary for digestion.
When cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis arise in the liver, a cancer may develop. There are two categories of liver cancer:
- Primary Liver Cancer: originates in the cells of the liver.
- Metastatic Liver Cancer: spreads to the liver from other parts of the body.
Most liver cancers in the United States are the result of metastasis. Cancers that have a tendency to spread to the liver include breast cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer. Metastatic cancers are always identified by their original location. For example, a lung cancer that spreads to the liver is referred to as metastatic lung cancer, not metastatic liver cancer.
Primary liver cancer does not respond well to current treatment options, and the human body cannot survive for more than 24 hours without liver function. These factors contribute to a typically poor prognosis.
Liver Cancer Risk Factors
The following factors mar increase your chances of developing liver cancer:
- Hepatitis: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most prominent liver cancer risk factor.
- Age: Your chances of developing liver cancer are greatly increased at age 60 and beyond.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop liver cancer than women. The reason for this remains unknown.
- Alcohol Consumption: The moderate consumption of alcohol is defined as a two-drink daily maximum for men, and a one-drink daily maximum for women. Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol may contribute to irreversible liver damage that may cause liver cancer.
- Tobacco Use: Smoking tobacco forces a wide array of harmful toxins into your body. Many of these toxins end up in your liver, potentially causing cellular mutations that lead to cancer development.
- Cirrhosis: This condition causes scar tissue to develop in the liver. Cirrhosis greatly elevates liver cancer risk.
- Diabetes: Research suggests a link between diabetes and liver cancer development. This link is not well understood.
Liver Cancer Outlook
The outlook for liver cancer patients depends on their overall health, as well as the type, location, and behavior of the cancer. Primary liver cancers typically do not respond well to treatment, yielding a poor outlook and low survival rates. Also, the outlook for patients with metastatic liver cancer depends greatly on the cancers original location.
Liver Cancer Prevention
The most effective ways to prevent liver cancer include the prevention of related disorders, such as HBC, HCV, and cirrhosis:
- Hepatitis B Vaccination: Getting vaccinated for hepatitis B provides more than 90% protection from the virus and lasts for many years.
- Hepatitis C Prevention: There is no vaccine available for HCV, so it is important to understand how you can avoid the disease. There are also many Hepatitis C clinical trialsfor those who have already been diagnosed.
- Know You Sexual Partner’s Health Status: Before you engage in sexual intercourse, be absolutely certain that your partner is not infected with HBV, HCV, or any other sexually transmitted disease (STD). Regardless of your partner’s health status, the use of a condom will drastically reduce your chances of transmitting STDs and other harmful bacterium.
- Use Clean Needles: First, the use of IV drugs is not recommended under any circumstances for recreational use. If you do use IV drugs, always use a sterile needle. Educate yourself about “needle exchange programs” in your community. Further, seek help for your drug use.
- Body Piercing and Tattoo Concerns: Body piercings are the leading cause of hepatitis transmission. If you decide to get a body piercing or tattoo, always make sure that the needles and other tools are opened from their original packaging in front of you. Never get a piercing or tattoo from an unqualified individual that does not provide you with the security of using new needles.
- Blood Transfusion Concerns: Blood transfusions are safe throughout most of the Western World. In other parts of the globe, however, it is common for recipients of blood transfusions to contract hepatitis.
OTHER PREVENTIVE MEASURES:
- Consume Alcohol in moderation: Limiting your alcohol consumption will greatly reduce your cancer risk.
- Avoid Combining Acetaminophen and Alcohol: Combining alcohol with acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been shown to cause liver damage.