primary and secondary liver cancer treatment center NY

Importance of the Liver

As the largest internal organ in the human body, the liver performs many functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and the production of chemicals, such as bile, which aid digestion. 

Normal liver cells can go along doing their job until they are damaged and replaced by new ones. However, if the growth rate begins to abnormally accelerate, cancer cells begin to take over and prevent the normal cells from doing their jobs.

Risk Factors of Liver Cancer

Despite decades of research, the American Cancer Society does not understand why the overgrowth of normal liver cells can become cancerous. Nonetheless, researchers have identified certain factors that increase your risk of liver cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Chronic Infection of Hepatitis B (HBV) or Hepatitis C (HCV)
  • More common in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
  • More common in men than in women
  • Inherited Metabolic Diseases
  • Heavy Alcohol Use
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Tobacco Use
  • Cirrhosis
  • Obesity
  • Aflatoxins

Primary vs. Secondary Liver Cancer

There are two types of liver cancer: primary and secondary. 

The main difference between primary and secondary liver cancer is the origin of the cancerous cells. If they begin in the liver, the patient is diagnosed with primary liver cancer. If the patient has been diagnosed with another form of cancer and it spreads to the liver, it is considered secondary liver cancer, also called liver metastases.

Causes 

Primary liver cancer does not have a specific cause. However, research shows that you are more likely to develop liver cancer if you have any of the risk factors mentioned earlier. 

However, secondary liver cancer occurs when cancerous cells have spread or metastasized from another part of the body to the liver. Patients with colon or rectum cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with secondary liver cancer. However, it can also occur in patients with cancers of the stomach, breast, esophagus, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, or skin.

Symptoms

In either type of liver cancer, it can be challenging to recognize the symptoms or signs that cancer is forming or spreading to your liver. 

It is unlikely that you will experience symptoms of primary liver cancer right away. However, as tumors develop, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • lack of hunger
  • feeling weak and unwell overall
  • unexpected weight loss
  • yellowing of skin or eyes
  • white, chalky stool
  • dark urine

You may also experience physical signs, such as a lump or pain in your abdomen or on the right side of your back just below the ribcage. 

In most cases of secondary liver cancer, there are no symptoms. However, some say they feel pain and discomfort in their abdomen. 

Other liver metastasis signs include:

  • feeling weak and unwell overall
  • an inability to eat
  • unexpected weight loss
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • bloating
  • itching
  • swelling of the legs
  • yellowing of skin or eyes

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should speak with your doctor to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis and Tests

If your doctor has reason to suspect either type of liver cancer, they will likely perform a physical exam to check for lumps that indicate a tumor, and discuss your medical history. 

The doctor may also perform one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests to identify specific substances that could indicate cancer
  • CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound to identify the quantity and location of the tumor(s)
  • Biopsy to sample the cells to determine if they are cancerous

Secondary liver cancer is more commonly diagnosed compared to primary liver cancer. 

Treatments

Fortunately, with today’s advancements in medical technology, several forms of treatment are available to make you manage the disease, alleviate pain and maintain your quality of life. Talk with your doctor to determine which of these options may work best for your unique situation. 

Surgery: This method involves the surgical removal of the tumor and possibly part of the liver surrounding it. This method is best suited for patients with one tumor that has not spread throughout the liver or other parts of the body. 

Ablation Therapy: Done through three primary methods: alcohol, freezing, or heat. In any case, the purpose is to destroy the tumor without removing it from your body. 

Embolization Therapy: This type of therapy involves cutting off the blood supply to the tumor, thereby killing it.

Radiation Therapy: Uses high-powered X-rays and other sources of radiation to kill the cancer cells. This radiation can come from an external source or an internal source, such as beads filled with radiation in radioembolization therapy. 

Targeted Drug Therapy: Unlike chemotherapy drugs, these medications target precise changes in the cancer cells in an attempt to destroy them. These targeted medications have shown a greater chance of success compared to chemotherapy in liver cancer patients. 

Chemotherapy: A combination of drugs used to potentially shrink a small number of tumors. Doctors commonly prescribe this treatment in conjunction with other liver cancer treatments. It can also be an option for patients who cannot undergo surgery, and localized therapies were ineffective. 

How We Care for You

Our mission at USA Oncology Centers is to provide you with the best options for liver cancer treatment that will maximize your chance of survival and enhance your quality of life. We perform a variety of minimally invasive treatments, including transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), radioembolization (Y-90 SIRT), and others. Depending on the location and stage of your liver cancer, our interventional oncologists will create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Let us help you with your secondary liver cancer treatment. Call us at 855.870.4747 or schedule an appointment with one of our interventional oncologists for more information.

We’re here for you

We believe that the patient-doctor relationship is at the core of medicine. We’re here to help you through your cancer journey - emotionally, physically and financially.

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