Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer – Cancer Example

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"Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer" is an important example of a paper on cancer.   In the human body, the largest gland in the liver which weighs about 3 pounds and occurring below the diaphragm. The liver has been found out to be among the most complex human organs but still the most important. It performs over 500 functions in the human body. Its core function is checking the safety and flow of all substances that get absorbed from the human digestive system prior to their distribution to the systemic circulatory system (Williams and Taylor-Robinson 7).

This paper analyses liver cancer, its epidemiology, aetiology, signs and treatment. Liver cancer The malignant tumours in the liver could be categorized as either primary or metastatic. The metastatic malignant tumour grows elsewhere apart from the liver but targets the liver for metastatic cancers because of its role as a primary venous blood filter from organs like the colon (Williams and Taylor-Robinson 8). Patients with this cancer do not live for more than a year (Stuart 3). Hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC ranks among the most common cancers globally and is the most common of the primary liver malignant cancers.

It normally starts in the hepatocytes as a tumour then grows larger and spreads to other parts of the liver at late stages. Aetiology The primary liver cancer, HCC would commonly occur due to damage on livers by birth defects, abuse of alcohol or chronic infection with some diseases including hemochromatosis, cirrhosis and hepatitis B. Statistics indicate that 50% of those diagnosed with liver cancer suffer from cirrhosis (Chuang, Vecchia and Boffetta 11). There has also been a linkage of obesity to the disease.

In addition, various substances that cause cancer such as chemicals like arsenic and vinyl chloride and herbicides have been associated with liver cancer. Smoking especially combined with alcohol abuse leads to liver cancer. Other causes include aflatoxins that contaminate maize, wheat, soya beans and rice and hormones estrogen and androgen. Signs and symptoms According to Williams and Taylor-Robinson, the initial signs and symptoms of liver cancer include unexplained fevers and weight loss especially for patients with cirrhosis (13). There could also be a sudden appearance of abdominal swelling and fluids, referred to as ascites.

Jaundice sets in and the muscles waste without causative factors. Liver cancer could invade the portal vein causing a blockage which could result in increased pressure in the veins resulting in dilated veins, referred to as oesophagal varices. A physical examination would reveal enlarged and tender liver and a stethoscope would reveal a distinct sound referred to as hepatic bruit. Nowadays, screening of people at risk has increased the discovery of cancer before the exhibition of these symptoms. Epidemiology Liver cancer is ranked the sixth most common cancer globally and the third most prevalent cause of mortality in cancer.

Of the over 600,000 new cases of liver cancer every year, 82% occur in developing countries (Chuang, Vecchia and Boffetta 9). China solely accounts for 55% of global liver cancer deaths. The male to female ratio incidence stands at 2.4 with a stronger difference in high than low incidence regions. Between 1988 and 2001, the five-year survival rate in the US was at 8%. This epidemiology could also be linked to incidence and mortality from liver cirrhosis. Treatment This would be dictated by the patient’ s overall condition and the stage of development of cancer.

Hepatic resections where tumours get removed through surgery could be used but cancer could recur elsewhere in the liver. Liver transplantation has worked well for tumours less than 3cm (Chuang, Vecchia and Boffetta 13). Other possible treatments which have not been qualified include systemic chemotherapy, biotherapy, chemoembolisation and “ hepatic arterial infusion of chemotherapy” (Stuart 19).


Chuang, S., Vecchia, C., and Boffetta, P. 2009. Liver cancer: descriptive epidemiology and risk factors other than HBV and HCV infection. Journal of Cancer Letters 286: 9 –14.

Stuart, K. E. 2011. Liver cancer. MedicineNet Inc. Web. 3 October 2012.

Williams, R., and Taylor-Robinson, S. D., ed. 2012. Clinical Dilemmas in Primary Liver Cancer. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Hoboken, USA, pp. 6 - 9.

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