Are you aware of what to look for to determine whether one has liver cancer? Is it treatable? Find the answers to all your questions in this comprehensive post.

The liver is an organ that is located beneath the rib cage. Its main job is to help digest fat and proteins and detoxify the blood from the digestive system.

Being a vital organ in the digestive tract, it is essential to ensure it is healthy and working at its optimum. One of the best ways to ensure that your liver is healthy is to schedule regular checkups with some of the best gastroenterologists in Dubai. Or try their 

What is liver cancer?

This is a type of cancer that causes an overgrowth of cells in the liver. Several types of cancers grow on the liver.

The most common type of cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma.

This type of cancer causes an overgrowth of cells in the primary liver cells known as hepatocytes.

The other types of liver cancer, such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are not very common.

Symptoms of liver cancer

Although there are many symptoms that gastroenterologists in the UAE look for, here are some of the most common symptoms of liver cancer:

  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Upper abdominal pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite
  • General body weakness and fatigue.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Excreting white chalky stools.

Let’s have an in-depth look at each one of them:

Unexplained weight loss

One of the critical symptoms of liver cancer is weight loss.

Since the liver is a crucial organ in digestion, liver cancer can cause loss of appetite, leading to a critical contributor to weight loss.

Like any other cancer, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also contribute largely to weight loss, especially when one experiences side effects like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or mouth sores that may make it difficult to eat.

Upper abdominal pain

Liver cancer has its pain mainly concentrated on the top right of the abdominal area or at the right shoulder blade and at times felt in the rib cage at the lower right part.

This abdominal pain is a warning sign and should never be taken lightly. One should seek medical attention immediately to determine the reason for the pain.

Abdominal pain in liver cancer may also be accompanied by swelling of the abdomen or ascites, like bloating the stomach that develops as a mass or swelling of legs and ankles.

Nausea and vomiting.

Liver cancer causes a high calcium level in the blood (hypercalcemia) which causes nausea, vomiting, constipation, confusion, general weakness, or muscle problems.

These signs may progress to coma or death if not treated. Patients with advanced liver cancer often feel sick(nausea) or are sick(vomiting) caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Nausea and vomiting can be managed with medicines (anti-nausea medicines), taking foods with ginger, eating small meals 5-6 times a day.

For patients who experience nausea before chemotherapy (anticipatory nausea), they may consider stress reduction therapy such as meditation before chemotherapy.

Loss of appetite.

Liver cancer patients, just like any other cancer, lead to loss of appetite. This is because the tumours release hormones that are responsible for distorting the body’s actual perception of hunger.

The hormones may cause appetite-reducing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stress, depression, pain, and dehydration.

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery may also lead to loss of appetite. It is vital to ensure that proper nutrition is enhanced for cancer patients as malnutrition due to loss of appetite leads to a 20 percent death rate among cancer patients according to the American Cancer Society.

General body weakness and fatigue.

General body weakness and fatigue are common symptoms among most liver diseases.

The fatigue may be intermittent or constant, mild or debilitating.

Cancer uses your body’s nutrients/ energy to grow and advance, and these nutrients no longer replenish your body, causing fatigue.

Inflammation caused by cancer may also be a contributor to fatigue. When your body is fighting cancer, it releases chemicals to trigger the immune response to the disease. These chemicals may cause fatigue.

treatments of cancer such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery require a lot of body energy, leading to general body weakness among cancer patients. Once the cancer cells die, the body works to clean up the dead cells in the body by causing inflammation which causes fatigue.

Abdominal swelling.

Liver cancer causes swelling of the abdomen due to growth of the cancer-causing swelling on the right side of the abdomen.

This swelling may also be due to the build-up of fluids in the abdomen, commonly known as ascites. Ascites can be caused by cancer blocking lymph vessels or by producing excess fluids. 

This build-up causes swelling and increases pressure in the abdomen that may make you feel uncomfortable and breathless. 

Excretion of chalky white stool.

White chalky stool may be due to a lack of bile.

Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. In liver cancer, the liver sometimes produces fewer amounts of bitterness, or if the flow of bile from the liver is blocked, the stool is pale like the color of clay (chalky white stool). This chalky white stool is often accompanied by yellow skin and eyes, commonly known as jaundice.

Causes of liver cancer 

Liver cancer, especially hepatocellular carcinoma, is usually caused by excess alcohol abuse, which results in liver cirrhosis. In rare cases, it might develop from a congenital disability in the liver. 

Other more common causes of liver cancer are severe cases of hepatitis B and C. These two diseases may end up causing complete failure of the liver. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Some symptoms of liver cancer include the excretion of chalk white stool, weight loss and nausea, and vomiting.

The genetic type of cancer might be difficult to prevent; however, minimizing the intake of alcohol might help avoid liver cirrhosis,  which will help prevent liver cancer.

Rarely does liver cancer originate from a hereditary background. Although some people with inherited hyperchromatosis absorb too much iron from their food. And when too much iron is absorbed it might result in liver cirrhosis which may, in turn, lead to liver cancer.

Key Takeaways

Cancer, in general, isn’t a disease that you sit around to observe the symptoms. Immediately you feel that you might be suffering from one. 

Ensure that you schedule an appointment with some of the best gastroenterologists in Dubai.

It is also recommended that you do an annual cancer screening to ensure that you maintain tip-top health and know in advance if you have cancer. From this, early treatment will begin, and complexity will be avoided.

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