What is liver cancer?
Cancer of the liver is of two main types, those that arise in the liver (primary) or those that travel from other organs or sites to the liver (secondary or metastatic), secondary tumours may affect the liver from a large number of sites but colon, pancreas, stomach and lung are common.
Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular cancer) usually arises after liver has been damaged (cirrhosis). Liver may be damaged by alcohol, virus infections, the body’s immune cells attacking liver (autoimmune) and other causes.
Liver cancer also may arise in the bile tubes within the liver (peripheral cholangiocarcinoma).
How is liver cancer diagnosed?
The suspicion of liver cancer should lead the clinician to blood tests and scans. The scans include ultrasound, CT and MRI. A biopsy (small tissue of tumour removal) may be required, this is done with the help of ultrasound guidance.
How is liver cancer treated?
The treatment strategies depend on a lot of factors including the type of tumour, its spread, location and the physical condition of the patient. Optimal treatment is surgical removal, or for hepatocellular treatment liver transplantation – provided certain conditions are met. Other treatments include destroying tumour with heat (ablation), removing blood supply to tumour (embolisation) with X-ray guidance or chemotherapy.
This is a specialist area and best managed by experienced teams.