MD REVIEW

Win Battle Against Liver Cancer

Cancer In The Mix

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Jack considers himself to be the best mixologist in the city. He likes every­thing about the bar nightlife. People laugh and shout over rhythmic jukebox music as Jack pours anything from cold beer to exotic fruity cocktails.

At 2:00 AM, waitresses clear the tables, the “closed” sign goes up, and Jack mixes the last drink—for the public. After everyone goes home, Jack has his own secret nightlife. Jack is an alcoholic who enjoys a cigar with his drinks.

The effects of drinking have caught up with Jack. He stands long hours behind the bar. But his primary exercise is shaking martinis. So Jack is overweight. Several years ago he received a diagnosis of fatty liver disease. The drinking continued until his recent diagnosis. Jack has liver cancer.

Acquiring Liver Cancer

Not everyone gets liver cancer from drinking alcohol. In fact, the exact cause is unknown. But many cancer patients have a history of high alcohol consump­tion, cigarette smoking, or exposure to certain chemicals.

Risk factors include medical conditions like hepatitis viruses (B and C), liver cirrhosis, and diabetes. Metabolic diseases like tyrosinemia, glycogen storage disease, and Wilson’s disease are also factors contributing to cancer.

Identifying Liver Cancer

As the largest solid organ in the body, your football-size liver weighs between 3–3.5 pounds (1.36–1.59 kg). Among 500 essential liver functions, the most vital are the filtra­tion of your blood from toxic substances, bile produc­tion, and storage of glycogen. A total failure of your liver function will shut down your body completely.

Liver cancer is an aggressive tumor that originates when normal liver cells become cancerous. It is the fifth most common type of cancer in men. Liver cancer incidence is almost twice that of women.

With DNA changes, mutant liver cells lose their ability to carry out proper functions. These abnormal cancerous cells have the potential to spread to adjacent tissues. This is how they metastasize throughout the body and hinder other functions.

Treating Liver Cancer

Liver Drinks Cancer

Early diagnosis of cancer remains the key factor in the prognosis of the disease. Despite advances in the oncology field, liver cancer is very difficult to treat. Therapy now involves multidisciplinary and multimodal approaches.

Treatment options depend upon the cancer stage, underlying liver disease, and your overall health. Size of the tumor, whether it extends into adjacent tissues, and metastasis are important prognostic factors.

A healthy liver is such an efficient storage unit and purifier that you can live with just 25–30% of it functioning properly. Surgical removal of the early-stage cancerous liver section (partial hepatectomy) is preferable.

Surgical interventions fail when the tumor invades nearby blood vessels. In such cases, the tumor can recircu­late with blood and cause recurrent cancer. Adjuvant therapy (interferons, immuno­therapy, etc.) following partial hepa­tec­tomy can eradicate residual cancer cells. Post-surgical chemo­emboliza­tion may increase the chances of recovery.

Treating Agressive Liver Cancer

Liver transplantation is a treatment of choice in cases of severe cirrhotic liver. Transplantation increases long-term survival as compared to liver resection. But it has higher short-term mortality.

🥃 First a man takes a drink; then the drink takes a drink; then the drink takes a man.

Treatment among inoperable patients include target therapy, radio­frequency ablation, cryo­therapy, immuno­therapy, and chemo­therapy. Sorafenib is a novel target therapy that kills cancer cells.

Recovering From Treatment

Following liver resection and immuno­therapy, Jack is on the road to recovery. The whole experience was a wakeup call for him. He now recognizes that working in a bar is too much of a temptation. This is counterproductive to his new healthy lifestyle goals. He wants to apply his skills to mixing smoothies.

Like Jack, be quick to adopt changes in your routine that reduce cancer risks. If you receive a diagnosis, work with your oncologist to shake liver cancer into remission.

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