Liver cancer is cancer that occurs in the liver. The liver is the largest glandular organ in the body and performs various critical functions to keep the body free of toxins and harmful substances. It’s located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, right below the ribs. The liver is responsible for producing bile, which is a substance that helps you digest fats, vitamins, and other nutrients. This vital organ also stores nutrients such as glucose, so that you remain nourished at times when you’re not eating. It also breaks down medications and toxins. When cancer develops in the liver, it destroys liver cells and interferes with the ability of the liver to function normally.
Liver cancer is generally classified as primary or secondary. Primary liver cancer begins in the cells of the liver. Secondary liver cancer develops when cancer cells from another organ spread to the liver. Unlike other cells in the body, cancer cells can break away from the primary site, or where the cancer began. The cells travel to other areas of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. Cancer cells eventually collect in another body organ and begin to grow there.
The liver continuously filters blood that circulates through the body, converting nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals. The liver performs many other important functions, such as removing toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood and readying them for excretion. Because all the blood in the body must pass through it, the liver is unusually accessible to cancer cells traveling in the bloodstream.
The liver can be affected by primary liver cancer, which arises in the liver, or by cancer which forms in other parts of the body and then spreads to the liver. Most liver cancer is secondary or metastatic, meaning it started elsewhere in the body. Primary liver cancer, which starts in the liver, accounts for about 2% of cancers in the U.S., but up to half of all cancers in some undeveloped countries. This is mainly due to the prevalence of hepatitis, caused by contagious viruses, that predisposes a person to liver cancer. In the U.S., primary liver cancer strikes twice as many men as women, at an average age of 67.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer?
- • Abdominal discomfort, pain, and tenderness
- • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, which is called jaundice
- • White, chalky stools
- • Nausea
- • Vomiting
- • Bruising or bleeding easily
- • Weakness
Most people who get liver cancer get it in the setting of chronic liver disease (long-term liver damage called cirrhosis), which scars the liver and increases the risk for liver cancer. Conditions that cause cirrhosis are alcohol use/abuse, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
he causes of liver cancer may be linked to environmental, dietary, or lifestyle factors. For example, in November 2014, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, found that long-term exposure to triclosan, a common ingredient in soaps and detergents, causes liver fibrosis and cancer in laboratory mice. Although triclosan has not been proven to cause human liver cancer, it is currently under scrutiny by the FDA to determine whether it has negative health impacts