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Liver Cancer

What is Liver Cancer?

There are two main kinds of liver cancer. Heptoma and cholangiocarcinoma. Heptoma is cancer of the hepatocytes. (The main functioning liver cell). Hepatoma is primary liver cancer. Hepatoma usually grows in the liver as a ball-like tumor, invading the normal tissue surrounding it. A history of infection with the hepatitis B virus puts individuals at risk of developing heptoma.

Cancer of the bile duct cells is called cholangiocarcinoma. Cholangiocarcinoma originates in the bile ducts and is often caused by infestation with the liver fluke Clonorchis (a parasite). The cancer grows along the bile ducts in sheets or lines, and is hard to find on X-ray studies.

Most cases of liver cancer are actually cancers that started in another organ. This is called metastases. Because of its very high blood flow and many biological functions, the liver is one of the most common places for metastases to grow. Tumors that originally arise in the colon, pancreas, stomach, lung or breast can spread to the liver.

Liver cancer is much more prevalent in many of the developing countries than in the industrialized world. Its incidence is highest in sub Saharan Africa, China, southern Asia, and Japan. Japan is the exception of the industrialized countries. China accounts for about 45% of the world's cases.

What Causes or Increases Risk for Liver Cancer?

Once cause of liver cancer is exposure to vinyl chloride. Other causes of liver cancer are unknown. However certain risk factors have been identified. The risk factors are: Chronic Hepatitis, Cirrhosis of the liver and liver flukes (parasites).

What is Vinyl Chloride?

Vinyl chloride is a toxic chemical compound frequently used in manufacturing. It is a combustible, colorless gas. Vinyl chloride is also known as chloroethene, chloroethylene, and ethylene monochloride. A known human carcinogen, vinyl chloride can cause liver cancer, brain cancer, angiosarcoma, and other health problems in people who are exposed to it.

People are exposed to vinyl chloride by either breathing in air containing vinyl chloride or consuming water contaminated with it.

What are the symptoms of Liver Cancer?

A very early cancer will have little or no symptoms. It will have little or no symptoms because it is too small to cause any. As the cancer enlarges, it will have symptoms. The common symptoms are:

  • Painin the right upper abdominal area. Pain is caused by stretching of the liver's capsule.
  • Weight Loss and loss of appetite.
  • Breast swelling in males
  • Blood clotting problems leading to intestinal bleeding and bruises on the skin.
  • Jaundice

Treatments for Liver Cancer

Treatments will vary according to the individual. Some of the possible treatments are: surgery, liver transplantation, chemotherapy and radiation.

Liver transplantation is the replacement of one liver with another.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Surgery is usually not an option. Surgery is usually not an option because leukemia cells can spread to all the organs via the blood stream and the lymph vessels.

Radiation therapy is the use of x rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Effects of Treatment


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