Men and women are equally likely to get liver cancer.
Men are almost twice as likely to get liver cancer in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 15,000 men and 6,000 women are diagnosed with liver cancer each year. Put another way, according to the American Cancer Society, a man’s chance of getting liver or bile duct cancer is 1 in 100, while a woman’s is 1 in 217. This discrepancy may have most to do with differences in lifestyle choices — such as drinking and smoking — between the sexes.
It is easy to detect liver cancer early.
Liver cancer rarely presents symptoms in its early stages. Part of the reason is because, since the liver sits underneath the rib cage, it can be difficult to feel small tumors, whether you are checking yourself or your doctor is giving you a physical exam.
There are symptoms associated with liver cancer, though they don’t usually appear until the cancer has progressed. However, it is possible for signs of liver cancer to appear early. Some typical symptoms include weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, swelling of or pain in the abdomen, nausea or vomiting, and feeling full after eating a small meal. It is always important to check with your doctor if you notice symptoms you think could be a sign of liver cancer or another problem.
Liver cancer is among the most common cancers outside the United States.
While liver cancer is relatively rare in the US, it is the fifth most common cancer worldwide. It is especially prevalent in developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Each year, about 1 million people are diagnosed with primary liver cancer around the world, but only 21,000 people are diagnosed with the disease in the United States.
Chronic incidences of Hepatitis B and C virus infections are the most common risk factors of primary liver cancer.
Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world, largely because of inflammation of the liver due to chronic hepatitis B virus infections. About 80% of all primary liver cancer cases worldwide are due to hepatitis B, with chronic hepatitis C infections responsible for the majority of the remainder.
There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, but not C. Hepatitis A does not lead to liver cancer.
There is nothing you can do to help prevent liver cancer.
The best way you can protect yourself from getting liver cancer is to get a hepatitis B vaccine. There is no vaccine currently available for hepatitis C.
Avoiding heavy alcohol use can also reduce your risk for liver cancer. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis, an irreversible condition that scars your healthy liver tissue and can lead to liver cancer.
In addition, following a nutritious diet and staying active can also help you keep healthy, as obesity is a rising risk factor for liver cancer.
Only adults get liver cancer.
Children may develop a type of liver cancer that is unique from adult liver cancer. Childhood liver cancer takes the form of hepatocellular carcinoma, which often spreads outside the liver, or hepatoblastoma, which usually remains in the liver. Both types are rare. While children under 3 usually develop hepatoblastoma, children of all ages can get hepatocellular carcinoma. Childhood liver cancer has different causes and treatments than adult liver cancer.
Everyone should get screened for liver cancer.
Though liver cancer may not present symptoms in its early stages, doctors generally recommend that only individuals at high risk for liver cancer get screened — or tested before any symptoms are present. Your doctor may recommend screening if you have cirrhosis, if you are on a waiting list for a liver transplant for a reason other than cancer, including cirrhosis, or if you have chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Talk with your doctor if you believe screening may be helpful in your situation.
Liver cancer can be cured only through surgery.
At this time, surgery is the only potential cure for liver cancer. However, other treatments, such as embolization, which blocks blood flow to tumors, causing the cancer cells to die, chemotherapy, which uses anti-cancer drugs to slow or stop the growth of tumors, or radiation therapy or ablation, which kill cancer cells, may be used to slow the growth of the disease and extend life. In all cases, palliative care, which is used to reduce symptoms and make you feel better, is used.
Since liver cancer is currently difficult to cure, many doctors recommend people participate in clinical trials, which test new treatments. There are many clinical trials available for people with all stages of liver cancer.