What is liver cancer?
Liver cancer is a cancer affecting the cells of your liver. It can develop when liver cells become abnormal and keep multiplying and growing. The abnormal cells form a mass or lump called a tumour.
It is the sixteenth most common type of cancer in Australia and the seventh leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia.
Primary liver cancer is a malignant tumour that starts in the liver. Most people with primary liver cancer have hepatoma or hepatocellular cancer. This begins in the main type of liver cell, known as a hepatocyte.
There are other less common types of liver cancer, including bile duct cancer and a very rare type of cancer called angiosarcoma.
The following are generalised symptoms, and not specific just to liver cancer:
- Discomfort in the upper right abdomen
- A swollen abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whitening of the eyes)
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Loss of appetite or feelings of fullness after small meals
- Unintentional weight loss
- Pale, chalky bowel movements and dark urine.
If you have any of these symptoms see your GP or health specialist.
Liver cancer can affect anyone.
The leading cause of liver cancer in Australia is hepatitis C, followed by alcohol consumption and hepatitis B.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) related liver cancer is also increasing as an indirect cause.
Treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma varies greatly depending on the number and size of the tumours, whether it has spread outside of the liver, and the liver’s general health.
Treatment can consist of curative treatment like surgery and some radiology procedures, other radiological treatments, or tablet chemotherapy. Sometimes people with liver disease may have a liver transplant.
Treatment is tailored by a team of specialists including a gastroenterologist and hepatologists (liver specialists), surgeons, radiologists, oncologists (cancer specialists) and nurses.