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Liver cancer

There are two main types of liver cancer. Tumor originating from cells of the liver, called hepatoma, a tumor originating in the bile ducts, called cholangiocarcinoma, if located within a liver and bile duct carcinomas, if located in a part of the duct outside the liver. Bile duct tumor spread is much smaller than hepatoma.

In developed countries, primary liver cancer mainly affects people of middle and old age and 2 times more common in men. Most patients with hepatoma is usually already suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, which is characterized by nodular regeneration of hepatocytes as a result of years of alcohol abuse. Sometimes hepatoma occur as a complication of hepatitis, acquired a chronic course. Both these states are fairly common, but as a complication of liver cancer is rare.

In some cases, the cause of hepatoma could be a condition known as hemochromatosis, characterized by increased deposition of iron throughout the body including the liver.

In Africa and Asia, primary liver cancer is more widespread and can occur on the third and fourth scores of lives of people who have no liver damage as a result of alcohol abuse. It is believed that the reason for this may be the impact of aflatoxin on the liver - metabolic products of fungi found in grain and beer. Also noted a clear link with liver cancer, hepatitis. Many cancers of the bile ducts are probably a consequence of liver fluke infestation.


Primary and secondary liver cancer observed the same symptoms. Often the first sign are a sense of discomfort and possibly swelling in the upper abdomen due to enlargement of the liver. Patients may appear signs of general malaise - fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss and sometimes fever with chills and flu-like symptoms.

If the tumor blocks the bile duct, preventing discharge of bile from the liver to the intestine, blood can accumulate products of bile, causing jaundice. Skin and whites of the eyes become yellow, and you may receive the itchy skin. The urine becomes very dark, and feces become pale chalky flavor.

Sometimes in the abdomen accumulates fluid known as ascites, causing bloating. This can be attributed to several causes: cancer cells could sprout from the liver into the mucous lining of the abdominal cavity, causing her irritation, due to liver damage disrupted the normal balance of fluid in the body, cancer cells could cause blockage of the venous outflow from the abdominal cavity, interfering with the normal removal of her fluid.

Jaundice, fluid accumulation in the abdomen can be caused by many conditions, in addition to liver cancer. However, they always signal the need to consult a doctor, and in their development it should be done immediately.


The first step that will take a doctor in this direction will be a physical examination the abdomen. Doctors are often able to identify by touch, liver enlargement, it can be quite tight and painful when pressed. Ultrasound or CT scan usually allows the doctor to determine the existence of a liver tumor and determine its size. If there is a suspicion of primary liver cancer, the next step will be, apparently, blood tests to determine levels of a substance called alpha-fetoprotein. Elevated levels of this substance indicate the possibility of hepatoma.

If the doctor knows that a primary cancer has struck some other body will no longer appear, the need for sampling, the tumor cells of the liver for histological examination. If a primary tumor is not known, for an accurate diagnosis will require a biopsy. It is performed under local anesthesia, but the patient must stay in hospital overnight. With the help of ultrasound or CT scan the doctor determines the exact location of the tumor and then a needle takes a small sample. If the results of this study indicate the secondary nature of the tumor, it is necessary to conduct further studies to localize the primary education. If the biopsy shows that the primary tumor, further studies will likely not be needed, since this type of cancer rarely affects organs outside the abdomen.



If you hit only one part of the liver and the other is satisfactory and there is no severe cirrhotic defeat, may remove the affected part. The liver has the amazing ability to heal itself, and even if it removed half or three quarters, its growth is resumed. However, unfortunately, many patients the tumor is too large or multiple tumors of the liver is formed, which makes their surgical removal impossible.

In primary liver cancer may be considered for transplantation. Unfortunately, for most people after liver transplantation relapse of cancer. However, some of them after the transplant operation live long enough, especially if the tumor in the liver removed were small.

This operation is still an experimental nature, its role will be clarified in the next few years.

In the treatment of secondary liver cancer surgery, as a rule, do not give any significant result. However, in very rare cases, if the liver is one or two of the lesion and after a very thorough screening of other secondary lesions in the body is not found, can be performed surgery to remove the affected areas.


Use of chemotherapy in the treatment of primary liver cancer is not proven, but many studies are underway to find ways to improve disease outcome. With the help of drugs in some patients managed in time to reduce the size of tumors and inhibit their growth.

In patients with secondary liver cancer, the success of chemotherapy depends on the extent of the primary lesion can be treated by certain drugs. If they are effective in the primary tumor, the same pattern will be observed with metastases.

Experimental method of chemotherapeutic agents is their direct introduction into an artery that delivers blood to the liver. In this way you can directly impact on the tumor to higher doses with fewer side effects to the body.


The liver is extremely sensitive to radiation and is easily damaged by even the small doses, so with this form of treatment rarely resort.

Laser therapy and injections of ethyl alcohol

If, after chemotherapy in the body were a few small secondary tumors, doctors may try to delete them with two new methods that are considered while the experimental ones. The first of these is laser coagulation of the remaining lesions. The second is to destroy the tumor by direct injection of ethanol. Both of these methods are still at the evaluation stage.


Primary liver cancer is curable little. Healing after surgical removal of the lesion of the liver can be achieved only in a minority of patients with this type of cancer, and the majority of patients to treatment is containment of the pathological process and relieve symptoms.

Results of treatment of secondary liver cancer depend on the localization of the primary lesion. When some of the most sensitive to chemotherapeutic drugs of primary tumors (eg, teratoma) can achieve cure rates, even if there are metastases in the liver. However, in this case, the goal of treatment in most patients with metastases consists in restraining the development of the disease and ensuring good quality of life.

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