Liver cancer – C22
Liver tumors are among the rare diseases occurring mostly in line with gall bladder or urinary tract cancer. They are often a site of metastases, and most commonly associated with digestive tract cancers. There are up to 1 million new cases diagnosed annually. It is important to recognise and interpret the first symptoms of liver diseases.
Although there are many types of liver cancer, their causes are identical. Infections are the main risk factors, particularly chronic hepatitis B and C (jaundice) that may instigate liver cirrhosis. This is the cause of the most severe hepatocellular carcinoma in 70% of cases. Excess consumption of alcohol (also causing cirrhosis) is another risk factor, as well as negative effects of chemical substances (pesticides and insecticides), obesity (inducing fatty liver = steatosis limiting its proper functioning), and smoking. A specific cause may be metabolic diseases (haemochromatosis, porphyria) that increase the risk of liver carcinoma. Liver cancer is more common in men in relation to the use of anabolic steroids; women may suffer from liver cancer due to the use of hormonal contraceptives.
Signs and symptoms
Initial signs are usually non-specific; increased fatigue, loss of appetite, fever or weight loss may occur including pain in the right upper quadrant, non-infectious jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), abdominal accumulation of fluid (ascites), muscle wasting, and a so called spider angioma (visible blood vessels just beneath the dermis). Manifestations of advanced liver cancer or liver failure are easily identifiable, e.g. intestinal bleeding.
Preventing liver cancer
Liver cancer may be partially prevented. Vaccination for hepatitis, adequate hygiene, stopping smoking or drinking excess alcohol are all suitable preventative steps, moreover, a healthy diet reduces the risk of fatty liver (steatosis).
Impact of the immune system on liver cancer
The immune system may have a primary role in the development of any cancer including liver cancer. A weak immunity amplifies adverse effects of chemical substances and smoking that incite infection in the body and progress to liver cirrhosis. However, tumor growth may be prevented by natural food supplements enhancing the body’s immunity and its defence mechanisms.