Cancer is a disease that develops due to abnormal growth of the body’s cells and spread to other body parts. Liver cancer is usually classified into two types:
- Primary liver cancer
- Secondary liver cancer
What is Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
HCC is one of the most common types of primary liver cancer. It is more common in people with chronic liver disorders. These diseases include cirrhosis due to viral infection (HBV or HCV). In the past few years, there has been an increase in hepatocellular carcinoma cases in the United States.
What are the Symptoms of Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
You might not have any signs when HCC is in an early stage. As cancer grows, a patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (Yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and tiredness
- Bloating or swelling in your belly
- Pain in the right shoulder
- Decreased appetite
- Swelling of the feet and belly
- Dark-colored urine
It is one of the most common types of spinal stenosis. In lumbar stenosis, the narrowing of the spine occurs in your lower back.
What Causes Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
The exact cause of HCC is still unknown, but doctors have identified some conditions that may increase your risk of getting it. Some of the most common HCC causes may include:
Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
Hepatocellular cancer can develop in a person who has suffered from these liver infections.
This is a degenerative disease that causes scar tissue to form in your liver. It raises the risk of developing liver cancer.
Inherited Liver Diseases
Liver disorders like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease increase the chance of having hepatocellular cancer.
The risk of having liver cancer increases with over two alcoholic drinks a day for many years.
Iron Storage Disease
This disease causes the liver and other organs to retain too much iron. HCC can develop in people with it.
Obesity and Diabetes
People with obesity and diabetes are at a greater risk of having HCC than those who don’t.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
The risk of having liver cancer is increased by an accumulation of fat in the liver.
This toxic substance can cause HCC. It is produced by some mold kinds of peanuts, corn, and other nuts and grains.
How Long Do Liver Cancer Patients Live?
The overall survival rate of patients with liver cancer is relatively low. Without treatment, the survival rate for the patients at stage A liver cancer is three years. Between 50 – 70% of people will survive for five years or more if they get proper treatment.
Is Hepatocellular Carcinoma Painful?
HCC is responsible for the reductions in health-related quality of life. Patients suffering from liver cancer may also experience side effects that include:
- Loss of appetite
- Skin toxicity
- Severe pain
However, pain is particularly troublesome. The complaint about discomfort in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen is prevalent among HCC patients.
Is Hepatocellular Carcinoma Curable?
In the early stages, HCC grows typically slowly. Hence, it can often be cured if found early.
Treatments for Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Many treatment options are available to treat HCC. It is a big decision, so work closely with your specialist to make the right and effective treatment plan that best suits you. Some of the most common choices may include:
This treatment option is also commonly known as percutaneous ethanol injection. With the help of an ultrasound scan, surgeons figure out the tumor’s exact location within the liver. Then interventional radiologists pass a needle into it. Through the needle, they inject ethanol (alcohol) to destroy the tumor.
This treatment is usually more effective in treating small liver tumors, i.e., less than 3 centimeters in size.
In this treatment, the doctor uses high-energy rays for killing cancer cells. It might induce side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, or fatigue, but with the completion of treatment, these symptoms go away. Depending on the severity of your condition, the doctor may use internal or external radiation therapy to treat HCC.
Supportive image: A person undergoing external beam radiation therapy for cancer
This technique is also commonly known as chemoembolization. During this treatment, the doctor usually places chemotherapy drugs directly into the liver.
The primary objective of chemotherapy is to kill the tumor by blocking the blood flow. The doctor places a thin and flexible tube into the artery. It contains a chemo drug combined with another medicine that helps stop the flow of blood. Through another blood vessel, your liver will continue to get the blood it needs.
This therapy can have adverse effects such as nausea, headache, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, and weakness.
Infections, bruises, bleeding, and exhaustion may also be more common to the patient. Some of these side effects can be alleviated by medicine.