Every year, millions of new cancer patients are admitted to hospitals around the world. In 2018, that figure was 17 million—by 2040, that number is estimated to be 27.5 million.1 Due to how important it is to discover the cancer at its earliest stage, it’s crucial to know the signs and symptoms of liver cancer. That way it can be detected early for the best chance of successful treatment.
Let’s discuss these questions in more detail.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Unfortunately, the symptoms of liver cancer are often attributed to other ailments which makes diagnosing liver cancer very complicated. For this reason, it can be difficult to know whether or not you have liver cancer prior to diagnostic tests.
The symptoms of liver cancer include:2
- Loss of appetite and weight loss (even when not trying to lose weight)
- Feeling full with a small meal
- Nausea and vomiting
- Enlarged liver or spleen (which presents as fullness under the ribs on the right or left, respectively)
- Enlarged abdomen, or swelling in the belly
- Pain in the belly or in the right shoulder blade
There are cases where liver tumors create hormones that cause changes in other systems in the body. This can result in:
- Hypercalcemia – When high levels of calcium are in the blood, this often results in nausea, confusion, muscle weakness, and constipation.
- Hypoglycemia – When low blood sugar levels cause you to faint or be fatigued constantly, this could be a symptom of hypoglycemia.
- Gynecomastia – Should the liver tumor cause a decrease in testosterone levels or an increase in estrogen levels, this can result in gynecomastia—the enlarging of breasts or the shrinking of testicles in men.
- Erythrocytosis – If your red blood cell count increases dramatically, this could cause you to appear flushed or bright red. This is known as erythrocytosis.
As you can see, the symptoms of liver cancer and the degree with which you experience those symptoms vary greatly. This leaves many patients unaware of the cancer forming. Check out our blog to learn more about the different types of liver cancer.
Methods of Detection
To determine whether you do or don’t have liver cancer, a physician will order one of three tests:
- Blood test – A blood test may be ordered to complete a liver cancer screening and identify any abnormalities in liver function. Should there be abnormalities present, further testing may be necessary to determine whether or not cancer is the cause.
- Imaging test – Your physician may take a liver ultrasound scan, CT scan, or MRI to determine whether you have liver cancer and identify whether you have a malignant tumor or a benign liver tumor.
- Liver Biopsy test – In some cases, it may be necessary to biopsy the liver—or remove a piece of liver tissue for laboratory testing. In this case, your physician will insert a needle to recover a small sample of tissue. This sample will then be examined under a microscope to detect cancerous liver cells.
Depending on the results, more tests may be needed to determine the extent of the cancer. Once the physician has the full diagnosis, it will be categorized into stages.
Stages of Liver Cancer
The stages of liver cancer are broken up into different categories. To understand the different levels, you need to understand the three groupings, which include:3
- T – Tumor size – The size of the cancerous mass and how much it has grown since the last examination.
- N – Lymph nodes – Whether or not the cancer has spread to lymph nodes. This is important because when cancer has attached to the lymph nodes, it means that the cancer is spreading quickly—thus requiring extra treatment.
- M – Metastasis to distant sites – Metastasis refers to how far the cancer has spread. Whether or not the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, other organs, bones, or lungs.
These categories are then assigned a number value. For example, a T3-N1-M0 would refer to a tumor size (T3) of larger than 5cm, with one or more tumors spread near or on the lymph node (N1), but the cancer has not spread to distant sites (M0).
Liver Cancer Treatment Options
After the diagnosis, the next stage of the process is treatment. Discuss with your physician the type of treatment you’d like to receive. In general there are two liver cancer treatment options:
- Traditional Treatment Methods – These include chemotherapy, surgery, radiation treatment, and other invasive methods that seek to eliminate the cancer cells through external means. These treatment methods come with significant adverse side effects.
- Alternative Therapy – Alternative therapies, like the ones offered by Immunity Therapy Center, aim to strengthen the body’s immune system to bolster natural defenses. By focusing on the immune system, alternative treatment seeks to empower the body to fight back against the cancer.
Choosing the Treatment Plan For You
If you suspect you have liver cancer, contact a physician right away. They can perform the necessary diagnostic tests to inform you of your liver cancer prognosis. One you understand the extent of your ailment, you can then decide on a treatment plan that’s right for you.
At Immunity Therapy Center, we understand the uniqueness of the individual. It’s why we customize our treatment plans based on the patient and their medical history.
With alternative treatments, you may be on the path to your healthiest self yet. Talk to the experts at ITC today for more information.
- Cancer.org. Global Cancer Facts & Figures. https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/global.html
- Cancer.org. Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html
- Cancer.gov. Liver Cancer Stages. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.