Liver cancer can be of two types. It can be a primary site of cancer or it can be metastatic liver cancer.
In metastatic liver cancer the primary site is somewhere else, and the tumor cells break away from the primary site and enter the liver to cause metastasis.
The spread can be through the blood stream, the lymphatic channel or spreading from the surrounding tissue.
Usually metastatic liver cancer develops from primary site of lung, stomach, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract and lymph nodes cancer.
Symptoms of Metastatic Cancer
- In the initial stage the symptoms are vague such as weight loss, poor appetite, fever, lethargy etc.
- Typical symptoms include liver hardness, tenderness at the site of liver, palpable liver with stony hardness.
- Spleen is palpable especially if there is pancreatic cancer.
- Jaundice set in if there is blockage of bile duct.
- The abdomen enlarges with fluid in the abdomen known as ascites.
- As the disease progresses jaundice worsens and patient starts to fell drowsy due to accumulation of toxins in the brain. The patient develops hepatic encephalopathy.
- Diagnosis is often difficult until the stage has advanced. CT scan, MRI, sonography of abdomen and blood for liver profile help to diagnose the condition. Liver biopsy is done if there is uncertainty of diagnosis.
Metastatic Liver Cancer Treatment and Prognosis
- The main aim is to prolong the life with good quality of living as far as the patient survives.
- Treating the primary tumor is important. It will depend how far the cancer has spread.
- Chemotherapy is useful to shrink the tumor temporarily. But they do not cure the cancer. It is a palliative treatment.
- Radiation may help to reduce severe pain in some cases.
- Surgical removal of tumor is possible if there is single tumor. However there is a controversy among doctors for its removal.
- Metastatic liver prognosis is poor. Usually the person does not live more than 6 months to one year, after diagnosis of metastatic liver cancer.