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Learn about liver cancer

Learn about liver cancer Learn about liver cancer
20 Sep 2020 01.46AM

Cancer can develop in the liver, so, being a vital organ, it is important to know its symptoms, risk factors and how to prevent it.

The liver is a vital organ for the human being, it is responsible, among other things, for breaking down and storing the nutrients absorbed by the intestine, as well as playing an important role in coagulation and secreting bile into the intestines. Even so, this organ is not immune to cancer, in fact that cancer that originates in liver cells is called liver cancer.

In this sense, it is appropriate to know what liver cancer is, what its symptoms are, preventive measures and the treatment to follow. It is worth mentioning that there are several types of liver cancer, the most common is called hepatocellular carcinoma (this begins in the hepatocytes, cells that make up the liver).

Likewise, cancers that originate in other organs and spread to the liver can occur. They are known as secondary liver cancer or metastatic liver cancer.


Risk factors

Certain factors make a person more likely to develop liver cancer:

  • Having cirrhosis.
  • Exposure to chemicals, for example aflatoxins (toxins produced by molds that grow on crops).
  • Hepatitis virus: Having the hepatitis B or C virus increases the risk of liver cancer, since these infections cause cirrhosis.
  • Having hemochromatosis (inherited liver disease).
  • Obesity.
  • Suffering from fatty liver that is not due to alcohol consumption, since cirrhosis could develop.
  • People with inherited hemochromatosis may develop cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • High alcohol consumption.
  • Smoke.
  • Type 2 diabetes.


How to prevent liver cancer?

By knowing the risk factors that increase the probability of developing liver cancer, the following preventive measures can be taken:

  • Reduce the risk of cirrhosis (limit alcohol consumption, exercise, and eat a healthy and balanced diet).
  • Use the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Prevent hepatitis C (for example, use protection when having sex).
  • Ask your doctor about liver cancer screenings.



Symptoms of liver cancer usually appear when the disease has already progressed. Still, the following may occur:

  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Abdominal pain (in the upper parts).
  • Itch.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Swelling of the abdomen.
  • White or whitish stools.
  • Enlarged liver and spleen.
  • Jaundice (the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow).



When a person is diagnosed with liver cancer, their medical team will explain what treatment to follow. At this point it is important to know the various existing procedures, as well as their pros and cons.

In general, the specialists who treat liver cancer, depending on the procedure to be performed, are oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist and gastroenterologist.

Treatments for liver cancer are usually:

  • Surgery: tumor removal or liver transplant. There are various procedures such as partial hepatectomy in which the entire liver is removed. Another option is a liver transplant.

  • Ablation: A procedure to destroy the tumor without removing it.

  • Embolization: consists of the injection of substances into an artery in the liver with the aim of blocking or limiting the flow of blood to the tumor as the tumor feeds on the hepatic artery.
  • Radiation therapy: X-rays are used to eradicate cancer cells.

  • Targeted therapy drugs: They reach the entire body as they enter through the bloodstream. For example, kinase inhibitors (which are proteins that promote the growth of tumor cells).

  • Immunotherapy: consists of the use of medicines that help the immune system to find and eradicate cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy: Drugs are used to kill cancer cells.