Liver cancer stands as one of the prevalent types of cancer, contributing significantly to the global cancer mortality rate. Notoriously subtle in its early stages, liver cancer often escapes early detection, with many patients receiving a diagnosis only once the cancer has progressed.

Prevalent Forms of Liver Cancer

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma is the primary form encountered both globally and specifically in Thailand.
  • Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as Bile Duct Cancer, is another form of liver malignancy.

Risk Factors Linked to Liver Cancer

  • Cirrhosis: This can develop due to various factors, including excessive alcohol intake or persistent viral hepatitis infections.
  • Alcohol consumption: Heavy drinking is a known risk factor.
  • Viral Infections: Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) are significant contributors to the development of liver cancer.
  • Aflatoxin Exposure: Commonly found in peanuts, corn, dried chili peppers, and other commodities, aflatoxin contamination is a risk factor.
  • Inherited and Metabolic Diseases: Conditions like diabetes can precipitate fatty liver disease, potentially escalating to cirrhosis.
  • Chemical Exposure: Chronic exposure to certain chemicals or long-term use of specific medications, such as anabolic steroids, can elevate liver cancer risks.

Recognising Symptoms of Liver Cancer

In its advanced stage, liver cancer may present symptoms such as:

  • Persistent pain in the upper right abdomen, possibly extending to the back or shoulder.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Unexplained weight loss and reduced appetite.
  • General fatigue and persistent fever.
  • A detectable mass in the liver area.
  • Jaundice, indicated by the yellowing of skin and eyes.

Diagnostic Approaches for Liver Cancer

  • A comprehensive review of the patient’s medical history and a physical examination.
  • Laboratory tests assessing liver function, screening for viral hepatitis, and measuring alpha-fetoprotein levels.
  • Imaging diagnostics, including ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI.
  • Biopsy procedures to obtain and test liver tissue samples.

Treatment Modalities for Liver Cancer

Tailored to the cancer's specifics and the patient's health, treatment options encompass:

  • Surgical intervention.
  • Chemotherapy protocols.
  • Radiotherapy sessions.
  • Liver transplantation, typically considered for patients below 70 years with tumors smaller than 5 cm.

The Criticality of Early Detection

With early detection being paramount, up to 90% of liver cancers are attributed to HBV and HCV infections, which are preventable and, when caught early through routine screening, treatable. It is recommended for individuals at risk, especially those with HBV or HCV, to undergo liver ultrasound and blood tests every three months to monitor for any irregularities.

This proactive approach not only aids in early detection but can significantly improve the efficacy of the subsequent treatment.