By Dr. Shantling Nigudgi Sr. Consultant Radiation Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Kalaburagi.
Liver cancer is one of the rare cancer. The most common form of Liver cancer is Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This form of cancer arises in the liver cells called Hepatocytes. It is difficult to assess liver cancer as the symptoms are not noticeable in the initial stages. As the disease starts to progress, symptoms like unexplained fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain or discomfort and jaundice.
Diagnosis for liver cancer especially Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) involves a combination of medical history and physical examinations, blood tests, biopsies (needle or surgical and Tumor markers). Imaging studies like Ultrasound can help detect the tumor and assess its size. CT Scan on the other hand, helps provide detailed images of the liver and is useful in determining the stage of the cancer. MRI scan helps in tumor identification and staging. PET scan is used to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment for liver cancer depends on factors like size of the tumor and stage of the cancer. The primary treatment options include Liver transplantation or resection surgery where either the liver is transplanted, or s surgery is performed to remove the tumor while preserving the healthy liver tissues. Ablation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, stereotactic Radiation, immunotherapy, and supportive care are the beneficial treatment options available for treating liver cancer.
Early diagnosis and screening are essential for this form of cancer because:
1. Silent Progression: Liver cancer at its initial stages does not manifest symptoms. By the time symptoms like weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite manifest, liver cancer would have reached advanced stages making treatment difficult.
2. Risk Factors: Factors such as cirrhosis, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and chronic hepatitis with B and C increase the risk of liver cancer. Regular screening is essential for individuals with these complications.
3. Diagnosis: Liver cancer is diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, imaging studies (CT or MRI) and liver biopsy. Through this, the doctors would be able to identify the stage of cancer and plan treatment action accordingly.
4. Improved Quality of Life: Early diagnosis allows for less invasive treatment and cost reduction while improving the quality of life for the patient. It also helps in better preservation of liver.
5. Curative Treatment Options: Early – stage diagnosis helps curate treatment options accordingly. Treatment options like surgical resection, liver transplantation, radio frequency ablation help treat liver cancer at early stages.
6. Education and Awareness: Educating individuals and spreading awareness about the importance of early diagnosis and screening encourages the individuals to discuss their risk factors and go for an early screening.
7. Importance of Vaccination: Vaccination can aid in preventing infection and subsequently lower the risk of liver cancer for people whose chronic hepatitis B infection puts them at risk for the disease.
8. Rendering Emotional Support: Early detection enables patients and their families to seek emotional support and make future plans. These essential issues frequently have little time due to late-stage diagnosis.
In conclusion, early detection, routine screening, and liver cancer awareness all play crucial roles in enhancing outcomes and lessening the burden of liver cancer. Fighting this dangerous illness requires promoting routine tests for those who are at risk and educating the public about risk factors for liver cancer.