How Do I Know If I Have Liver Cancer?
Screening for early detection of primary liver cancer is not performed routinely, but it may be considered for people at high risk for the disease. However, studies haven’t determined if screening is beneficial for anyone. To diagnose liver cancer, a doctor must rule out other causes of liver dysfunction.
Patients at high risk include patients with a condition called hemochromatosis, chronic hepatitis, and alcoholics.
Additional tests include:
- Blood tests that measure tumor markers — the levels of these substances rise in the blood if someone has a particular cancer — can aid diagnosis. Liver cancers secrete a substance called alpha fetoprotein (AFP) that is normally present in fetuses but goes away at birth. An elevated AFP in adults may indicate liver cancer as it is produced in 70% of liver cancers. Elevated levels of iron may also be a tumor marker.
- Imaging with ultrasound is the initial diagnostic test as it can detect tumors as small as one centimeter. High resolution CT scans and contrast MRI scans are used to diagnose and stage these tumors.
- A liver biopsy will distinguish a benign tumor from a malignant one. However, depending on the results of other tests, a biopsy might not be required to diagnose cancer.
- Laparoscopy, using tools and cameras through small incisions, is useful for detecting small tumors, determining the extent of cirrhosis, or obtaining a biopsy, and confirm previous tests, among other things.
How Liver cancer is curable ?
Liver cancer can sometimes be cured by being cut out by a surgeon. This depends on 3 things
- How big and how widespread the cancer is within the liver
- The kind of cancer and where it started
- How well the rest of the liver is working
Most liver cancers are not primary liver cancer, but secondary liver cancer. This is important. Secondary liver cancer means that the cancer started somewhere else in the body and spread to the liver. It could have started in the bowel or breast, for example. This means that the cells in the liver will be bowel cancer or breast cancer cells, and not liver cancer cells. If this is the case, removing the part of the liver with cancer is unlikely to cure you because there will still be cancer cells left inside your body.
If you have primary liver cancer it may be possible to cut it out. If it is small and just on one side of the liver, the surgeon may remove it, leaving half the liver behind. If it is on both sides of the liver or very big, this usually means surgery would not be safe. Surgeons do sometimes remove the whole liver and transplant a donor liver. Whether this is suitable for you depends on why you have liver cancer, how advanced it is and on your general health.
Even if the cancer cannot be cut out, there are treatments for some kinds of liver cancer which can control the tumour for some time. There are several different ways of destroying tumours in the liver. These can be used for some secondary cancers in the liver, as well as for primary liver cancer. With secondary cancer, they won’t get rid of the cancer completely, but they can help to keep it under control.