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Liver cancer

Liver cancer Liver cancer
20 Sep 2020 04.13AM

Liver cancer begins in liver cells, its symptoms usually appear when the disease is advanced. Yet, it has treatment.

When cancer begins in liver cells, it is called liver cancer, of which there are several types, the most common being hepatocellular carcinoma (it begins in hepatocytes). Other, less common types also occur, such as hepatoblastoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

On the other hand, if the cancer originates in another organ and spreads to the liver, it is known as metastatic cancer. Symptoms of liver cancer usually appear when the disease is advanced. Even so, in some cases the following are present:

  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Itch.
  • General weakness and fatigue.
  • Pain in the upper parts of the abdomen.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Jaundice (the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow).
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Enlargement of the liver and spleen.
  • White or whitish stools.

People who are most likely to develop liver cancer are those with cirrhosis of the liver disease or chronic infections (such as hepatitis B and C). Also those with diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Likewise, excessive alcohol consumption and exposure to aflatoxins (toxins produced by molds that grow on crops) represent risk factors. Like some inherited liver diseases like hemochromatosis.

How to prevent Liver Cancer?

To prevent liver cancer, the risk of cirrhosis must be reduced (reduce alcohol consumption, eat a healthy diet and exercise). Also get vaccinated against hepatitis B and take measures to prevent hepatitis C, for example, use protection when having sex and know the health status of the couple. Also ask your doctor about tests for liver cancer.

How is it detected?

The following tests are performed to establish a diagnosis of liver cancer:

  • Blood test to detect alpha-fetoproteins (AFP).
  • Biopsy - A sample is obtained to study liver tissue.
  • Imaging exams, of which there are several types:
  • Ultrasound: allows to show tumors that grow in the liver.
  • CT scan: helps find out the shape, size, and location of a tumor in the liver. They are also used to guide a biopsy needle to where a tumor is believed to exist.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: shows soft tissues of the body. It also shows tumors in the liver, and can show if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Bone scans: useful for finding metastases.

Some specialists even recommend that people who are more likely to have liver cancer do the AFP test and ultrasound every six months.

After diagnosing liver cancer, the doctor proceeds to determine its stage (grade) in order to specify the treatment and prognosis. Stage tests are performed, which serve to determine if the cancer has spread, in addition to knowing the size and location. Specifically, the classification of the stages of liver cancer is usually done with Roman numerals (from I to IV) or letters (from A to D).


Treatment of liver cancer will depend on the progression of the disease, as well as the age and general health of the patient. It can be divided into operations (tumor removal and liver transplantation) and localized treatments (radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and supportive care).

It is important to note that the support of family and friends is vital to cope with liver cancer; even the patient could resort to psychological support. It is helpful for the person to stay in contact with loved ones and to express their feelings and concerns.

Learn more about Fundahigado America Foundation by clicking here

Eugenia Jiménez Alvarez, writing
Assistant to the Fundahigado América coordination
Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences

Daniela Malavé, writing and editing