With liver cancer on the rise, make sure you have regular screenings if you’re at risk, and visit the doctor if you show any liver cancer symptoms.
Liver cancer is fairly rare, but since 1990, its relative risk has doubled, rising from 3.5 to 6.5 per 100,000, says Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. Liver cancer symptoms don’t usually show until the cancer has reached advanced stages. So, regular screenings could be the key to higher survival rates. Read on for four major risk factors and four important symptoms that could clue you in to signs of liver damage.
Certain characteristics may put you at risk for liver cancer.
You've had Hepatitis C
Those with a history of hepatitis C can develop related liver cancer 10 years after their diagnosis, Dr. Abou-Alfa says. There is treatment that can cure hepatitis C and therefore prevent liver cancer.
You've had Hepatitis B (or haven't been vaccinated)
Although it’s unrelated to hepatitis C, hepatitis B can also cause cancer. Anybody who has hepatitis should have some form of monitoring by a doctor. Getting an ultrasound at least once a year to screen for cancer if you’ve had either of the virus is hence recommended.
You Hit the Bottle Hard (or used to)
Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage liver cells, which are replaced by scar tissue. This condition can then lead to liver cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Pay attention to these signs if you're binge drinking.
“The new driver of liver cancer is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” Dr. Abou-Alfa says. “The rise in liver cancer associated with obesity and diabetes has been the main driver for years.”
The more risk factors you have, the more concerned you should be, so talk to your doctor.
Unusual Abdominal Pain
Most people with liver cancer have pain in the upper right of their abdomen. When an asymptomatic patient is examined and when his liver area is palpated, he says it hurts. Pain in that area does not necessarily indicate liver cancer. It could also come from hepatitis, or gallbladder and pancreas problems.
Unintended Weight Loss
Weight loss and loss of appetite is a common symptom of people with a lot of different diseases, including a number of different cancers and viruses. A drop on the scale might not be cancer, but make sure to tell your doctor if your other symptoms could be linked with liver cancer.
Feeling Full Quickly
Excess fluid in the belly could cause you to feel full faster than usual. Cancer always makes you lose your appetite, though it is not the only reason for loss of appetite.
Yellow Eyes and Skin
Symptoms of jaundice could indicate liver cancer. If you’re itching and have jaundice, it’s not a good story. Jaundice is also a telltale symptom of pancreatic cancer.
A better understanding of these risks and symptoms may well help an early diagnosis and treatment of this illness and thereby improve the survival rates.