The liver is an important organ in the body. It is the second largest organ in the body with a weight of two to six pounds. Part of the tasks of the liver is to detoxify substances and to secret bile which aids in the digestion of food. It is also a part in the metabolizing process of the body.
It is not fully known what definitely causes liver cancer although some risk factors have already been identified. Aside from cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, smoking is also linked to liver cancer. Exposure to the manufacturing compound vinyl chloride is related to liver cancer.
Liver cancer is a form of cancer that is hard to detect in the early stage. For this reason, most cases of liver cancer are diagnosed at a later stage when the patients can no longer recover fully. Liver cancer in its early stage does not usually show symptoms. Some cases of early stage liver cancer have been recognized through blood tests administered on Hepatitis B, C, and D patients. Liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver are complications of the Hepatitis virus. Detecting malignant growths in the liver is based on the “markers” present in the patient’s blood. Often, the blood test is part of the routine laboratory tests done on Hepatitis patients.
Other tests may also be done to detect liver cancer in the early stage, like ultrasound, CT scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, since it is common for symptoms to be unfelt during the early stage, clueless patients only seek medical help when the condition is already in the advanced stage.
The most common symptom of advanced liver cancer is upper abdominal pain. This is felt in the upper right side of the abdomen. Sometimes, the pain may be felt up to the back and shoulders. The abdomen may swell because of the swelling of the liver. The medical term for this condition is ascites. A strange mass in the upper right abdomen may be felt, too.
Nausea and weight loss are also symptoms of liver cancer. The feelings of fullness and bloating add to the loss of appetite. Vomiting is caused by the lack of bile that is needed in food digestion. Frequent vomiting contributes to the loss of weight.
Jaundice may be experienced with liver cancer. The accumulation of bilirubin in the blood causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellowish. It also causes the color of the urine to be darker.
Just like in any other cancers, liver cancer patients experience chronic fatigue. This is totally different from the usual fatigue that is felt after working hard. This type of fatigue is more severe and usually comes without warning.
Recognizing liver cancer is important in order to do a more sensitive test. Since most cancers manifest the same symptoms, it is also important to distinguish that it really is liver cancer by doing some more sensitive tests focused on the liver.