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Liver Cancer

Liver cancer (also known as hepatoma) is a malignancy of the liver. Most cases are secondary to either hepatitis infection (usually hepatitis B or C) or cirrhosis (alcoholism being the most common cause of hepatic cirrhosis).

Most malignant tumors of the liver discovered in Western patients are metastases (spread) from tumors elsewhere. In the West, HCC is generally seen as rare cancer, normally of those with pre-existing liver disease. It is often detected by ultrasound screening, and so presents to health-care facilities much earlier than in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example. Diagnosis, screening and monitoring.

In the western world, liver cancer (HCC) most commonly appears in a patient with chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis B or hepatitis C, 20%) or with cirrhosis (about 80%). These patients commonly undergo surveillance with ultrasound due to the cost-effectiveness.

In patients with a higher suspicion of HCC (such as rising alpha-fetoprotein levels), the best method of diagnosis involves a CT scan of the abdomen using intravenous contrast agent and three-phase scanning (before contrast administration, immediately after contrast administration, and again after a delay) to increase the ability of the radiologist to detect small or subtle tumors. It is important to optimize the parameters of the CT examination, because the underlying liver disease that most HCC patients have can make the findings more difficult to appreciate.

Liver Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of Liver Cancer are very rarely seen in the early stages. This is due mainly to the fact that Liver cancer, by itself, rarely appears with out the signs and symptoms of the associated disease listed above, that being hepatitis, cirrhosis, and/or a metastases from another cancer. So, liver cancer symptoms could be, but are by no means effective in diagnosis:

  • Swelling and tention below the right ribs
  • Jaundice
  • Light Colored Stools
  • Distention and Bloating
  • Polyuria and polydypsia

Other even more vague symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Skin problems and disorders
  • Allergies
  • Dizziness
  • Tinnitus
  • Tremors, Spasms, Ticks
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Irritability, easy to anger
  • Hypochondriac pain and mid back tension
  • Tight, inflexible tendons and ligaments
  • Depression and mood swings

diagnosing liver cancer

On a CAT scan, HCC can have three distinct patterns of growth:

  • A single large tumor
  • Multiple tumors
  • Poorly defined tumor with an infiltrative growth pattern
  • Both calcifications and intralesional fat may be appreciated.

In patients who have a contrast agent allergy or poor renal function, an MRI scan of the abdomen is a more costly but effective substitute.

Once imaged, diagnosis is confirmed by percutaneous biopsy and histopathologic analysis.

Microscopically, there are four architectural and cytological types (patterns) of liver cancer: fibrolamellar, pseudoglandular (adenoid), pleomorphic (giant cell) and clear cell. In well differentiated forms, tumor cells resemble hepatocytes, form trabeculae,cords and nests, and may contain bile pigment in cytoplasm. In poorly differentiated forms, malignant epithelial cells are discohesive, pleomorphic, anaplastic, giant. The tumor has a scant stroma and central necrosis because of the poor vascularization.

Posted by Staff at June 14, 2005 6:41 AM

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Comments Archive

A friend of mine has been diagnosed with Stroma Cancer. He has a tumor on his liver and spots were detected. What is the treatment? Is surgery possible? What is the prognosis of someone with Stroma Liver Cancer?

Posted by: Theresa Grutsch at July 12, 2006 6:55 PM