Liver Cancer Treatment

What is liver cancer?

surgeons operating on a patient

Liver cancer occurs when there is abnormal growth of liver tissues. When a tumour starts from the cells of the liver, this is known as primary liver cancer. Secondary (or metastatic) liver cancer occurs when cancer cells are deposited in the liver from a main cancer spreading from another part of the body.

The liver helps the human body store nutrients and destroy toxins. When its liver cells and bile duct cells become cancerous, early detection and medical care are crucial. Liver cancer is common in Asia, and occurs more often in people above age 40 or who have had hepatitis B or C in the past.

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

elderly lady lifting weights near a lake

The majority of patients with liver cancer show no symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms do appear, they may include:

● Weight loss with no cause
● Loss of appetite
● Upper abdominal pain
● Nausea and vomiting
● General weakness and fatigue
● Abdominal swelling
● Yellow discolouration of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
● White, chalky stools

What are the causes of and risk factors for liver cancer?

There are 3 main causes of primary liver cancer: chronic hepatitis B infection, chronic hepatitis C infection, and alcoholic liver disease. Other causes may include inherited liver conditions or cirrhosis.

Common risk factors associated with an increased risk of liver cancer include chronic infection from different hepatitis viruses, liver tissue scarring, genetically inherited liver diseases, too much fat in the liver, exposure to mould such as mould on peanuts and corn, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Enquire with our medical oncologists.

Did you know?

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world with about 1 million deaths annually.¹ Liver cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting men in Singapore.²

What are the possible complications of liver cancer?

elderly couple brisk walking outdoors

Possible complications of liver cancer are fatigue throughout the day, as well as vomiting or pain in the lower belly region due to swelling. A hazardous complication due to liver cancer is the spreading of tumour cells to other parts of the body.

When should I see a specialist for liver cancer?

If you experience any of the symptoms of liver cancer, contact a specialist for a screening. Few people experience symptoms or register signs during the early stages of liver cancer, therefore you should see a specialist as soon as possible if there are symptoms present. Early diagnosis and treatment will increase your chances of recovery.

How should I prepare for my appointment?

Before your visit to your medical oncologist, be sure to prepare any questions you may have, and be ready to discuss your symptoms in detail. Try to bring a written timeline to reflect on how and when your symptoms commenced.

How do specialists screen for and diagnose liver cancer?

A medical oncologist will ask for the medical history of the patient to check for risk factors and evaluate symptoms. A blood test for alpha-fetoprotein can be done to detect liver cancer.

The medical oncologist will also perform a thorough medical examination to check for liver cancer symptoms and potentially other health problems. Common checks for liver cancer include checking the skin and eye color for a yellowish discolouration as well as swelling in the lower belly.

Additional tests also include imaging tests using x-rays, MRI, a CT scan, or ultrasounds, and body composition testing via a complete blood count, blood chemistry assessment, or blood clotting tests.

What treatments are available for liver cancer?

Once your diagnosis is confirmed, your medical oncologist will decide on the best treatment option for your specific condition. Treatments available for liver cancer include surgery to remove the tumour, liver transplant, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, liver resection, targeted therapy, or tumour ablation that kills the cancer cells.

Request an appointment with a medical oncologist today.

[1] Valverde, Benjamin J. Liver Cancer: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment. Hauppauge, Nova Science Publishers, 2011.
[2] SingHealth. Liver Cancer: Symptoms & Risk – HealthXchange. HealthXchange.sg Beta. Published 2016. Accessed November 15, 2017.