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Liver Cancer

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Overview

The liver is the largest solid organs in the human body. It is located below the right lung and under the ribcage. Liver’s proper functioning is necessary for survival. The Liver’s main function is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract. Liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. Liver Cancer begins in the cells of the Liver.

The most common type of liver cancer is Hepatocellular Carcinoma. It begins in the main type of Liver cell (hepatocyte). Other rare types of liver cancer are Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma and Hepatoblastoma.

Liver cancer occurs when liver cells develop changes or mutations in their DNA. These abnormal cells start growing rapidly and finally form a Tumor in the Liver.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Common signs and symptoms of Liver Cancer are:

  • Losing weight without trying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Yellow discoloration of skin and the whites of eyes (jaundice)
  • White, chalky stools

Risk Factors & Causes of Liver Cancer

Risk factors or causes of Liver Cancer include:

  • Chronic infection with HBV or HCV: Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) increases the risk of liver cancer.
  • Cirrhosis: This progressive and irreversible condition causes formation of scar tissue in the liver and increases the chances of developing liver cancer.
  • Inherited liver diseases: Liver diseases like Hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease increase the risk of Liver Cancer.
  • Diabetes: Diabetic patients always have higher risk of Liver Cancer.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Excessive Alcohol consumption damages Liver and increases the risk of Liver cancer.
  • Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: An accumulation of fat in the liver increases the risk of liver cancer.

Diagnosis of Liver Cancer

Early detection of Liver Cancer is very helpful for the successful treatment. Various diagnosis tests include – 

  • Blood Test: Blood tests show the liver function abnormalities.
  • Imaging Test: Imaging tests include CT scan and MRI scans.
  • Liver Biopsy: In this test, a piece of liver tissue is removed for laboratory testing to make a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer.

Treatment of Liver Cancer

Liver Cancer treatment is depending on the type and stage of cancer. Major treatments include:

Surgery:

In Liver Cancer, surgery is performed either to remove cancerous tumor or to transplant liver.

Radiation Therapy:

In Radiation therapy, high-powered energy beams such as X-rays and Protons are used to kill cancer cells or to shrink tumor. During radiation therapy, patient lie on a table while a machine moves around patient and directing radiation precisely on the body. In advanced stage of cancer, radiation therapy is used before or after the surgery to relieve pain. It’s often combined with chemotherapy treatments. If surgery is not an option then Cancer Surgeon performs combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a primary treatment.

Chemotherapy:

In Chemotherapy treatment, drugs are used to kill cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is often used after the surgery to kill any cancer cells that remained in the body. It can be used alone or combined with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can be used before the surgery to shrink cancers. In advanced stage of cancer, chemotherapy is used to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Localized Treatment Options:

Main goal of Localized treatment is to kill cancerous cells. Various localized treatment options are heating cancer cells, freezing cancer cells, injecting alcohol into tumor, injecting chemotherapy drug into the liver and placing beads filled with radiation in the live.

Targeted Drug Therapy:

Targeted drug therapy is also useful to stop or slower the growth of cancer tumor.

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