Liver Cancer Awareness Month: signs, symptoms and reducing your risk

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 9:33 AM | by Carly Stunda

By Kyle Basicker, Health Education Intern

Its October, which means the air is getting cooler, the leaves are beginning to change color and Liver Cancer Awareness Month is upon us! During the month of October, we are honoring and raising awareness for those affected by liver cancer. Since 1980, new cases of liver cancer have tripled, which is a cause for concern.

Impact of liver cancer

  • Over 33,000 Americans are diagnosed with liver cancer every year in the U.S.
  • In Indiana alone, over 780 diagnoses are expected in 2019.

What does the liver do?

The liver is a football sized organ that sits in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath your diaphragm and above your stomach. The liver has many jobs, including:

  • Storing nutrients
  • Removing waste products and worn-out cells from the blood
  • Filtering and processing chemicals in food, alcohol, and medications
  • Producing bile, a solution that helps digest fats and eliminate waste products

What is liver cancer?

Primary liver cancer forms when liver cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver’s cells. Cancer that begins in another area of the body and spreads to the liver is called metastatic cancer rather than liver cancer.

The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main type of liver cells (hepatocyte). Other types of liver cancer include intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, which are much less common.

What are the signs/symptoms of liver cancer?

Unfortunately, liver cancer may not cause noticeable signs or symptoms during its early stages. As the cancer grows, people may start to notice more of these common symptoms. Many of the signs and symptoms of liver cancer can also be caused by other conditions and disorders.

Symptoms of liver cancer may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A feeling of fullness after eating even a small amount of food
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Abdominal pain in the upper right side of the abdomen and or in the right shoulder blade
  • Abdominal swelling

How can I reduce my risk for liver cancer?

  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • Take measures to prevent hepatitis C
    • Know the health status of any sexual partner
    • Don’t use intravenous (lV) drugs—but if you do, use a clean needle
    • Seek safe, clean shops when getting a piercing or tattoo
  • Seek treatment for Hepatitis B or C infection

If you or someone you know is fighting cancer, Little Red Door is here to help. We strive to make the most of life and the least of cancer by reducing the physical, emotional and financial burdens of cancer for the medically underserved residents of central Indiana by providing free client services, survivor programming and cancer education.