Liver Cancer

Liver cancer definition

Liver cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of the liver. The liver is a football-sized organ that sits in the upper right part of the abdomen, below the diaphragm and above the stomach.

Many types of cancer may form in the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the primary type of liver cell (hepatocyte). Other types of liver cancer, such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are rare.

Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver cells. Cancer that begins in another area of ​​the body — such as the colon, lung, or breast — and then spreads to the liver is called metastatic cancer, not liver cancer. This type of cancer is named after the organ it started in – ie metastatic colon cancer to describe cancer that started in the colon and spread to the liver.

Liver cancer types

The types of liver cancer are :

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Cancer of the gallbladder ducts.

Liver cancer symptoms

Symptoms of liver cancer include :

  • Yellowing of the skin, pallor and jaundice.
  • yellowing of the whites of the eyes;
  • Anorexia.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Feeling tired and exhausted.
  • A mass on the right side of the abdomen.
  • Feeling of flu symptoms.

Liver cancer stages

One of the biggest concerns raised by cancer is the possibility of spreading beyond its original location. When an individual is diagnosed with cancer, the doctor determines the stage of the disease (from 1 to 4), as the larger the number determined by the doctor, the more widespread the cancer will be. The disease is also classified according to how it is treated and the possibility of eradicating it by surgery.

The stages of liver cancer development include :

  • Stage 1 : Only one tumor is detected in the liver.
  • Stage 2 : the detection of one tumor and its spread in the blood vessels, or the detection of more than one tumor, the size of which does not exceed 5 cm.
  • Stage 3 : At this stage, more than one tumor appears, each of which is more than 5 cm in size, or the cancer has spread from the liver to the blood vessels or another organ or to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4 : The stage of cancer spreading to other places in the body such as the lungs, bones, blood vessels, and lymph nodes.​

Liver cancer causes

Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) usually occurs in people who have :

  • Congenital abnormalities of the liver.
  • People who drink excessively.
  • People with chronic infection stemming from other diseases, such as: hepatitis C and type B, hemochromatosis, as well as cirrhosis.

More than 50% of people with primary liver cancer have cirrhosis that occurs as a result of the above factors

Liver cancer treatment

All types of liver cancer are among the diseases that are difficult to treat. In a few cases, primary liver cancer is detected at an early stage, which is the stage when the chances of treatment are good. Secondary liver cancer is also difficult to treat. This is because the cancer in this case has spread and metastasized.

In addition, the complex networks of blood vessels and bile ducts in the liver make the surgery process difficult.

Liver cancer treatment is based on improving the patient’s feeling and trying to prolong his life, which is as follows :


Tumors found in the early stages can be removed with surgery, and patients whose tumors are found in the early stages have the greatest chance of a cure.

Unfortunately, in most cases of liver cancer, surgery cannot be performed. This is because the cancer is at an advanced stage, or the injury is too severe to survive surgery.


In certain cases, tumors can be reduced in size by chemotherapy, which can then be removed by surgery.

There is no evidence that chemotherapy after surgery increases the patient’s chances of survival. Patients who have been successfully treated and whose disease has regressed to a state of remission should remain under close observation and follow-up, in order to ensure that the disease does not recur.


A treatment method during which the tumor is frozen and cauterized by radio waves in order to get rid of the tumor, a method that can be used in certain cases of liver cancer.

Radiation therapy

These treatments can be implemented in a number of ways, but they have limitations. Due to the reduced ability of the liver to tolerate radiation, radiation is used to relieve symptoms outside the liver or to relieve pain in the liver by shrinking the tumor.

Liver transplant

It is a reserved option for treating patients with both hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis, and there is a high risk in this procedure but also a chance of recovery.

Advanced liver cancer involves the use of a single, concentrated treatment. The spread of cancer can sometimes be stopped and pain relieved by the use of chemotherapy and low-dose radiotherapy, but the effectiveness of this type of treatment for this cancer is, however, low.

Various pain treatments

Most patients receive a combination of strong pain relievers and medicines to relieve nausea and bloating, or to improve appetite.

Sorafenib is the first drug to achieve a very significant improvement in the general condition of patients with advanced liver cancer that cannot be treated with chemotherapy.

Treatments still under clinical research

People with advanced liver cancer can choose to join clinical research to examine newer treatments, including freezing tumor cells for the purpose of exterminating them, and using biological agents, such as: interferon or interleukin 2 to stimulate the immune system. Immunotherapy can attack cancer cells by using synthetic proteins specifically designed to kill specific tumors.

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