Liver Cancer

The liver is an organ located in the right upper part of the abdomen. The size is almost similar to a football ball and weighs 1.5 kg in adults. The liver is reddish-brown due to rich blood supply.

What are the symptoms?

Liver cancer is usually asymptomatic for a long time. Advanced stages of liver cancer include:

  • Losing weight and lack of appetite
  • Upper abdominal pain, accompanied by nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice and pale stool might be other signs of liver cancer

Around one thousand Czechs are diagnosed with malignant tumours in the liver every year – mostly between 60 to 75.

What are the risk factors for liver cancer?

  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Some hereditary liver diseases

How to prevent liver cancer?

  • Beware of alcohol. Remember! There’s no healthy amount. You’ll learn more about alcohol and the risks here.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – the balance between intake and output. Try to eat healthily and exercise at least 30 minutes 5x a week.
  • Hepatitis prevention: Get a hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis C prevention includes avoiding intravenous drug abuse, unprotected sex with unknown partners or tattoo and piercing studios with poor hygiene conditions. If you suspect hepatitis B or C infection, contact your GP, who’ll take a blood sample. Both variants are treatable.
  • Don’t forget about preventive health checkups once every two years. Liver function tests (e.g., enzyme levels from the blood sample) can reveal other problems.

What’s the treatment?

In some cases, liver resection sorts the issue.

Sometimes, chemotherapy is applied to the blood vessels feeding the tumour or damaging the tumour with heat is used.
Other options are medications that stop the growth of the tumour's blood vessels, chemotherapy, or radiation.


What is cancer?

You can imagine cancer as an “out of control” cell multiplication, which can occur in any organ of your body. 
This affected organ can then grow and push other organs out of their location or even lose its function.

Depending on the severity, we talk about:

  • Benign tumors – with clear borders, they don't spread across the body.
  • Malignant tumors – they spread across the body by blood and lymphatic system and form other tumors (metastasis).

What is the function of the liver?

The liver has functional importance, supporting good inner balance.

  • The liver produces bile which breaks down fat.
  • The liver is involved in the digestive and metabolic processes. Macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein and fat) metabolism also happens here.
  • Due to this considerable metabolic activity, the liver produces heat and thus participates in thermoregulation.
  • It also stores sugar (glycogen), vitamins A, D and B12 and minerals such as iron and copper.
  • The primary function is detox – it eliminates alcohol and medications.
  • Last but not least, it produces proteins for healthy blood clotting.

What can affect the liver?

  • Inflammation – Viruses mainly cause hepatitis. Some types of these infectious viruses are transmitted from contaminated water or food, some are sexually transmitted, and some come from contact with blood.
  • Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver – the healthy tissue is replaced with scarred one and is permanently damaged. Common causes include alcoholism and obesity.
  • Cancer – Metastasised tumours appear more frequently in the liver than in other organs, apart from the tumours developing directly in it. Metastasis is the spread of cancerous sites to different parts of the body. Breast, lung or anus tumours metastasise to the liver due to significant bloodstream, especially from the digestive tract.

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