October is National Liver Cancer Awareness Month
According to her American Liver Foundation, primary cancer of the liver numbers are on the rise. Each year, over 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with liver cancer. Liver cancer is the seventh most common form of cancer in women, and the fifth most common form in men. While many cases of liver cancer are metastatic (meaning that it has spread from cancers which began in other areas of the body), primary liver cancers arise from the liver itself.
The American Liver Foundation’s national Campaign to Raise Awareness
In order to help raise awareness and fight liver cancer, the American Liver Foundation has created a national campaign to educate people about liver cancer. They have designated the entire month of October as Liver Cancer Awareness Month.
ASP Cares Proudly Serves Those Fighting Cancer
As a market-leading specialty pharmacy, ASP Cares is dedicated to serving people living with rare disorders and cancers. As part of our commitment to help fight all forms of cancer, we have created this article to help explain the risks, warning signs, and other information you should know about liver cancer.
The Liver Supports Almost Every Other Organ in the Body
Most of us rarely give our liver a thought, yet it plays at least a supporting role to almost every other organ in the body. Second only in size to the skin (the largest organ in the body), the liver is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, under the diaphragm, and just above the stomach. The Liver is a large glandular organ with two lobes. It is an extremely vascular organ, holding roughly a pint of blood, approximately 13% of the body’s total blood supply, at any given moment.
Some of What the Liver Does
The liver performs many complex functions that are critical for life including: producing red blood cells, processing hemoglobin (the protein inside red blood cells that allows them to bind to oxygen), storing iron, synthesizing critical blood clotting factors, filtering and cleaning the blood (by removing toxins and bacteria from the blood), breaking down fats, making bile, helping to regulate blood sugar levels, and converting ammonia to urea (which is excreted in urine), as well as others.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Who is at Risk?
The most common form of liver cancer is known as hepatocellular carcinoma (also called hepatoma or HCC). According to the Center for Disease Control, HCC accounts for 85-90% of all primary liver cancers. While anyone can develop liver cancer, some people have a higher risk than others.
Hepatocellular carcinoma, for example, occurs nearly twice as often in males than it does in females. HCC has also been strongly linked to both hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Both of these forms of hepatitis are caused by a virus which can cause inflammation and scarring of the liver. Fortunately, there are effective vaccines for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Other risk factors for developing HCC include:
• Certain inherited disorders such as hemochromatosis (excess iron storage in the liver)
• Scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver which is often related to alcohol use or hepatitis C
• Hepatitis B or C
• Exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals such as pesticides
• Tobacco use
• Hepatitis B Exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals such as certain pesticides
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer
In the early stages, liver cancer may not cause noticeable signs or symptoms. It also should be noted that many of the signs and symptoms of liver cancer can be caused by other conditions and disorders. Signs of liver cancer can include:
• Loss of appetite
• Unexplained weight loss
• A feeling of fullness after eating even a small amount of food
• Nausea and or vomiting
• An enlarged liver or spleen
• Abdominal pain in the upper right side of the abdomen and or in the right shoulder blade
• Adnominal swelling
• Fatigue (which can be severe)
• Stomach pain
• Itching of the skin
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
• Weakness and or muscle problems
Liver Cancer Diagnosis
Liver cancer is often diagnosed using a combination of tests. These may include a test known as a biopsy (where the doctor removes a small sample of the liver for testing). If someone is experiencing symptoms commonly related to liver cancer, their doctor may also order:
• Blood tests
• Computed tomography (CT scan)
• Laparoscopy (a minimally invasive surgical procedure using a fiber-optic camera)
• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
• Angiography (a test that uses a special dye to look at blood vessels)
• Bone scans (to see if the cancer has spread)
Common Liver Cancer Blood Tests
• Alpha-fetoprotein blood test (AFP)
• Liver function tests
• Blood clotting tests
• Complete blood count (CBC)
• Tests for viral hepatitis
• Kidney function tests
• Blood chemistry tests
Staging of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is staged based on how far it has spread. Staging a cancer helps guide doctors in their treatment choices. Liver cancer can be staged in one of several ways, including the TNM system which is based on three separate factors:
• (T) The size and number of tumors, as well as the location
• (N) Lymph node involvement
• (M) Metastasis (If has spread to other areas of the body)
Treatment depends on the exact location, size and type of the liver cancer in question. In some cases, the cancer may require a resection (surgical removal), in others it cannot be resected because the patient is not healthy enough, or for other reasons.
Advanced liver cancer may require a liver transplant. Liver cancer may also be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, liver ablation (using a special needle to destroy tumors without removing them), or embolization (injecting substances that reduce or block the flow of blood to areas of the liver to starve cancer cells of the nutrients they need).
ASP Cares. About You.
If you, or someone you love, is fighting liver cancer, we are here to help. ASP Cares offers exceptional medication support for cancer patients. We understand the unique needs of cancer patients, as well as the medications used to treat cancer of the liver and others.
You are not alone. ASP Cares stands with you.
Please help raise awareness about liver cancer by sharing this blog with your family and friends. Together, we can beat liver cancer.
ASP Cares. Big enough to serve. Small enough to care.
This content does not represent medical advice. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified medical provider.