The liver is a football-shaped large organ located on the upper right side of the stomach under ribs. The liver plays an important role in the digestion of food, storing and filtering of blood and controlling blood clotting. It is the only organ in the body that can renew itself. Liver cancer affects around 30 people per 1,00,000 and its major cause is diabetes, hepatitis, and consumption of alcohol. The most common type is hepatocellular carcinoma while others like hepatoblastoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma are uncommon. It is more common in males than females. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, back pain, jaundice, itching, anemia, weight loss, and fever.
There are two best ways to treat liver cancer – surgery and liver transplant.
The surgery: There are different kinds of liver surgery. Liver resection, in which the part of the liver where a tumor is removed and liver ablation, which kills cancer cells by exposing them to very high temperatures or electric currents. Liver resection is done to remove different types of liver tumors. The goal of the surgery is to completely remove a tumor. The biggest concern about resection is that there are chances of liver failure after the surgery. That is why this type of treatment is only used for small tumors. While on the other hand, liver ablation includes different methods to kill cancer cells. For example, Radio Frequency Ablation(RFA) and microwave ablation kill cancer cells by heating them and Irreversible electroporation uses electric currents to kill cancer cells. The surgery takes around 2 to 4 hours.
Liver Transplant: liver transplant is the option when tumor resection cannot be done. When the cancer is at its early stage and has not progressed beyond, can be treated using transplantation. The possibilities are when there are less than 5 tumors each 3 cm across or less, a single tumor not more than 5 cm across and a single tumor which is 5 to 7 cms across and has not grown in the last 6 months. Transplantation is not an option when the disease has already spread outside the liver.
However, there are some side effects of both the treatments. Excessive bleeding is the risk in case of surgery. Since liver helps blood to clot, any damage done to the liver during surgery can increase the amount of bleeding. Some other side effects of resection include infection, pneumonia, and complications from anesthesia. The same side effect is applicable in case of liver transplantation. However, some more side effects related to medication can include high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, weakening of kidney and bones, and increase in body hair.