Liver cancer is a common and deadly cancer that commonly originates in the bile ducts of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that carries out important functions like protein synthesis to make cells function, bile production to aid in digestion, and regulation of glucose, It also filters toxins from blood, regulates hemoglobin and hormones, destroys old red blood cells, and regulates metabolism.
All of the body's blood passes through the liver, making the liver susceptible to cancer cells from other parts of the body. Most cancers in the liver are metastatic, meaning they started somewhere else in the body and spread to the liver. Cancers are named after their point of origin; if lung cancer spread to the liver, it would still be called lung cancer and would be treated as such.
The most common form of liver cancer begins with cells in the bile ducts- called the hepatic stem cells. Hepatocellular carcinoma, or hepatoma, is the 3rd leading cause of death and the 6th most common cancer worldwide. it is most common in people with cirrhosis, a condition that causes the liver to become hardened and scarred. Cirrhosis is often the result of chronic alcohol abuse, Hepatitis C, or other chronic liver conditions.
Less common types of liver cancer include intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer), angiosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma (cancer that begins in the lining of the bile ducts), and hepatoblastoma (a rare type of liver cancer that develops in children).
If you have suffered as the result of a negligent liver cancer diagnosis, call Gilman & Bedigian today to learn more about your legal options.
Liver Cancer Facts and Statistics
- In 2015, there will be about 35,660 new cases of liver cancer, 25,510 in men and 10,150 in women
- There will be approximately 24,550 deaths from liver cancer in 2015, 17,030 in men and 7,520 in women.
- Liver cancer is one of the most common and deadliest cancers in the world, with over 700,000 new diagnoses each year and over 600,000 deaths.
- The average of a liver cancer diagnosis is 63. Over 95% of people diagnosed with liver cancer are 45 or older.
- The average five-year survival rate of liver cancer, or the percentage of patients alive five years after diagnosis, is 17.2%.
- The number of Americans with first time liver cancer diagnoses has been increasing over the past decade.
- About 4 out of every 5 liver cancer cases is hepatocellular carcinoma.
- In 2012, an estimated 50,734 people in the United States were living with hepatocellular carcinoma.
- About 10% of all liver cancer cases are intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
It is difficult to recover from liver cancer- often because the cancer is not found until it has progressed. Because liver cancer is common, doctors should know the risk factors associated with the disease and should recommend screenings for anyone at high risk. Risk factors include:
- Being male and being over 45 years old
- Smoking tobacco
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Type 2 diabetes
- Exposure to certain chemicals like triclosan (used in soaps and detergents), vinyl chloride (used to make some plastics), or thorium dioxide (used in x-rays)
- Chronic exposure to arsenic
- Aflatoxins—toxins in fungi that can grow on wheat, corn, rice, and soybeans when stored in moist environments.
- Metabolic diseases that cause an abundance of iron, copper, or of certain amino acids.
- A personal or family history of liver cancer or chronic liver conditions.
Symptoms of liver cancer often do not develop until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. The symptoms, however, are common with many other diseases and conditions. A doctor should consider the symptoms in conjunction with the risk factors; to make the correct diagnosis. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the abdomen on the right side or near the right shoulder blade
- Swollen or enlarged liver—may be felt under the ribs
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Jaundice—a yellowing of the skin and eyes that signals problems with the liver
- Weakness and fatigue
Diagnosing Liver Cancer
For people with a high risk of liver cancer doctors recommend blood tests and ultrasounds of the liver every 6 to 12 months.
Early stage liver cancer causes no symptoms. Symptoms do not appear until the tumor has grown large enough to press on the organ or surrounding organs, or until it is large enough to seriously damage the liver's function. This accounts for the low recovery and survival rates of liver cancer.
Doctors may also order a CT scan to find out the location and size of the tumor- or may perform a biopsy to test for cancerous cells.
Liver Cancer Treatment
Once liver cancer is diagnosed, doctors will assess the size and location of the tumor in order to make a treatment plan.
If the cancer is caught in the very early stages, doctors may choose to surgically remove the tumor or to have a liver transplant. Doctors can only surgically remove the tumor if it is not near major blood vessels, and only if removing it won't seriously harm the function of the liver. Liver transplants are only an option if the cancer hasn't started to spread or metastasize.
If the cancer is advanced, doctors may try tumor ablation (using a needle or probe to administer radio waves or treatments directly to the tumor) or embolization (injecting substances to block the blood supply to cancerous cells), If the cancer is too advanced for either of these treatment options, doctors may use radiation or chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells.
Malpractice and Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is a common and deadly cancer. For this reason, doctors should know the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of liver cancer to make a timely diagnosis and initiate treatments.
If you or someone you love has suffered from a negligent liver cancer diagnosis, call our offices today for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal rights.