Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of malignant neoplasm of the liver. This form of liver cancer is one of the more common malignancies with 6% of men and 3% among women.
In hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, hepatocellular carcinoma), mutations occur in the livers own cells, causing cells to grow freely and uncontrollably. Risk factors that are more commonly associated with this cancer include diabetes, hepatitis B, liver cirrhosis or hemochromatosis.
The liver is the central metabolic organ of the human body. Functional failure of this organ is not compatible with life.
Liver cancer symptoms
The disease signs in liver tumors are very unspecific. Most patients complain:
- In performance
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
Late signs of the disease are:
- The pressure in the abdomen
- Bulges of the abdominal wall
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Back and neck pain
5% of the tumors are late due to tumor metastases (tumor spreads to other organs).
How is liver cancer diagnosed?
The course of the disease is usually progressing very rapidly. The tumor diagnosis is performed using ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. Using a fine needle biopsy (removal of liver tissue through the abdominal wall using a special needle), the diagnosis can be secured.
What types of liver tumors are there?
In addition to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is the most common form of liver cancer, their ischolangiocarcinoma ( cholangiocarcinoma ), hepatoblastoma, sarcoma or cystadenocarcinoma, all of which are rarities.
Even more common than HCC (liver cell cancer) are liver metastases, i.e. tumor deposits of distant neoplasms in the liver (malignant secondary tumors of the liver). These may, for example, be metastases of a colon carcinoma or a breast carcinoma. Because the liver, as the major metabolite in humans, is very well supplied with blood, it is also the organ most frequently affected by tumor deposits.
Benign (benign) liver tumors include liver cell adenomas, focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH), cavernous hemangiomas or liver cysts.
How is a liver carcinoma treated?
The best survival rates for malignant liver tumors or mesothelioma are achieved by a complete, surgical removal (resection) of the neoplasm by a specialist in liver surgery. In addition, existing, severe cirrhosis (shrinking liver) can also be considered a liver transplant.
Prolongation of life through palliative care (measures that do not cure, but facilitate and possibly prolong survival) is limited. However, the quality of life can be significantly improved by measures such as alcohol installation into the tumor, chemotherapy or improvement of the bile outflow.
Liver cancer alternative treatments for tumor reduction
If the tumor is not removable by surgery, alcohol may be injected into the tumor or the tumor may be reduced by heat (e.g. radiofrequency probes, RFA = radiofrequency ablation). Tumor shrinkage can “shrink” a previously inoperable tumor to an operable state.
In advanced disease, the tumor can also be reduced by selective internal radiotherapy (SIRT, radioembolization). Radioactive material is transported directly into the tumor. This method reduces tumor size and protects the surrounding tissue in the best possible way.
Another possibility for tumor reduction is the application of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE). Here, a chemotherapeutic agent is injected directly into the cancer tissue via a vascular catheter, which is advanced to the tumor. These tumor-reducing measures can be bridging measures up to liver transplantation, up to resection or palliative interventions.
A state-of-the-art procedure for tumor reduction in liver cancer is HIFU therapy (ultrasound-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound). In this treatment approach, the tumor is “sonicated” from the outside by means of high-energy ultrasonic waves. As a result, the tumor cells heat up so much that they “cook up” and the tumor shrinks. This process is still in its infancy; however, numerous studies have shown that HIFU therapy is a successful therapeutic approach to tumor reduction with few side effects.
What are the chances of a cure for liver cancer?
Overall, the chances of recovery in hepatocellular carcinoma are rather poor. Patients with known liver cirrhosis (shrinking liver) should, therefore, be screened semi-annually by means of ultrasound and laboratory examination (tumor marker AFP = alpha-fetoprotein).
What is the life expectancy of liver cancer?
Untreated, the average survival time after diagnosis of liver cancer (HCC) is about 4 months. After surgical resection patients survive on average 3 years or 20-50% of patients are healed after liver resection (removal of the entire tumor tissue).
Which specialists are specialists in the treatment of liver cancer?
If you have liver cancer, you want the best medical care. Therefore, the patient asks, where can I find the best clinic for liver cancer therapy?
Since this question cannot be answered objectively and a reputable doctor would never claim that he is the best doctor, one can only rely on the experience of a doctor. The more patients with liver cancer a doctor negotiates, the more experienced he becomes in his specialty.
Thus, liver cancer specialists are specialists in gastroenterology, oncology, visceral surgery, radiology and nuclear medicine who specialize in the treatment of liver tumors. Through their experience, they are the right contact person for the planning, execution or second opinion.