Liver cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death worldwide, with over 700,000 deaths every year. More than 800,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with liver cancer each year. In 2020, over 830,000 people succumbed to the disease worldwide.
Among the best oncologists in India, Dr. Sandeep Nayak says that the liver is a vital organ of our digestive system and has the unique ability to regenerate lost tissues caused by surgery or some injury. Any damage to it can cause severe complications to other organs of your body.
HCC(hepatocellular carcinoma) is the most prevalent type of primary liver cancer, accounting for around 75% of the liver cancer diagnoses.
In this blog, we will learn about treatment options for HCC in 2022. Let us start by understanding what the liver is and its functions.
The liver and its functions
The liver is a significant organ found solely in vertebrates that conducts a variety of vital biological tasks, including detoxification and the production of biochemicals and proteins required for growth and digestion. It is situated in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen, below the diaphragm.
There are multiple functions your liver performs that are vital to your well-being. The main functions of the liver are:
- It purifies blood flowing from your stomach and intestine before sending it to the rest of your body. This ensures that your body is free of toxins.
- It secretes bile which breaks down fatty acids to promote healthy digestion.
- It strengthens your immune system enabling the body to fight against infections.
- It retains healthy nutrients and removes the rest as waste products.
Dr. Sandeep Nayak, one of the best cancer specialists in Bangalore, adds that the liver plays a critical role in metabolism and processes what we consume. Due to this, it is vulnerable to damages caused by drugs, alcohol, accumulation of fat in the liver, and toxins.
Imagine what would happen if the liver were unable to perform to its best ability. One of the life-threatening diseases of the liver is liver cancer.
What is liver cancer?
The malignancy of the liver is known as liver cancer. When the disease develops in the liver, it damages liver cells and impairs the liver's ability to function normally.
There are 2 types of liver cancer:
- Primary liver cancer starts in your liver cells.
- Secondary liver cancer occurs when cancer cells that have developed in another organ spread to your liver.
Unlike the other cells in our body, cancer cells can move away from the original area where the cancer started.
Dr. Sandeep Nayak, an accomplished surgical oncologist in India, explains that the cancer cells can migrate through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to other body parts. They can begin growing in different tissues or organs once they reach there.
What are the symptoms of liver cancer?
Most people do not have any symptoms in the early stages. When they do appear, symptoms may include:
- Stomach ache, especially in the upper abdomen
- Dark urine and pale stool
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling itchy
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Weakness and fatigue
Metastatic or secondary liver cancer is difficult to cure because the cancer cells have already spread. Surgery in this stage is challenging due to the liver's complicated network of blood arteries and bile ducts.
How is primary liver cancer HCC treated?
According to Dr. Sandeep Nayak, among the leading laparoscopic surgeons in Bangalore, early detection of primary liver cancer, when it is most curable, is rare because you may not experience any symptoms.
Dr. Sandeep Nayak is one of the preferred cancer specialists for liver cancer treatment in Bangalore, India. HCC is treated using disease-specific treatments in the hopes of eradicating and possibly curing it.
The treatment options are:
- Hepatectomy surgery
A hepatectomy is a procedure that can only be conducted if one part of your liver is affected by cancer and your liver is working well. It involves removing the affected section of your liver.
The remaining part of your liver takes the functioning responsibility for the entire liver. Your liver may return to its original size in a few weeks.
Side effects: Pain, tiredness, and weakness are all possible adverse effects of a hepatectomy. The medical team will monitor you for signs of infection, bleeding, liver failure, or other issues that require immediate attention.
A liver transplant is possible only if specific requirements are met, like the tumor size and quantity, as well as the availability of a compatible donor. It is important to remember that the number of available liver donors is limited. As a result, transplantation is not always a viable choice.
Following a transplant, the patient will be closely examined for signs that the body is rejecting the new liver or that the tumor has returned. The patient must take medicine to avoid rejection.
Side effects:These medications can cause high blood pressure, puffiness in the face, or increased body hair.
Microwave therapy and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) both employ heat to kill cancer cells. They can be administered through the skin, via laparoscopy, or a surgical procedure while the patient is under monitored anesthesia care.
Percutaneous ethanol injection
This treatment involves injecting alcohol directly into the tumor to kill it. Fever and soreness following the operation are common side effects. The treatment is safe, simple, and especially effective when the tumor is less than 3 cm.
SBRT (Stereotactic body radiation therapy)
SBRT refers to a number of techniques for providing high doses of radiation therapy to a tumor while reducing the quantity of radiation delivered to neighboring healthy tissue. SBRT is an effective treatment for tumors that are 5 cm or smaller.
What if the patient's liver cancer cannot be cured?
If the doctor believes the treatments indicated above cannot cure your cancer, they may recommend one of the following alternatives to decrease the tumor or slow its growth. While these treatments are unlikely to cure cancer, they can increase the length of time patients can live.
During chemoembolization, drugs are administered into the hepatic artery. The blood flow via the artery is temporarily blocked to keep the chemotherapy in the tumor for longer. Cancer cells are also killed when the tumor's blood supply is cut off.
Chemoembolization can be used to reduce tumor growth in persons waiting for a liver transplant and be utilized as a primary treatment for HCC.
In radioembolization, radioactive beads are inserted into the artery that provides blood to the tumor. When the beads become stuck in the tumor's tiny blood arteries, they give radiation therapy directly to the cancer.
According to Results from a 2021 Global Phase III clinical trial called HIMALAYA,a combination of immunotherapy medications, durvalumab (Imfinzi) and tremelimumab, helped persons with unresectable (cannot be removed with surgery) advanced HCC (hepatocellular carcinoma) survive longer.
Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that boosts your immune system's ability to target and attack cancer cells by utilizing your body's natural defenses. Durvalumab targets the PD-1 protein, while tremelimumab targets CTLA-4.
We need to take good care of our liver to ensure that we have a healthy body. It processes the nutrients in the food we eat and gets rid of toxins from our bodies. It produces bile to ensure healthy digestion, builds protein, and much more. That is why it is essential that we also protect it and avoid practices that may cause damage to the liver.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned or been diagnosed with liver cancer, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Sandeep Nayak.
Dr. Nayak is a top-notch cancer specialist in Bangalore and will discuss your cancer treatment choices and help you assess the advantages of each treatment choice against the risks and adverse effects that may occur.