Liver cancer begins in the cells of the liver. Symptoms may include weight loss, stomach pain, vomiting, and yellowed skin. Usually, a single tumor in the liver grows larger and gradually spreads to other parts of the liver. Several types of cancer can form in the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main type of liver cell. Other types of liver cancer such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are much less common. Treatments vary but may include removal of part of the liver, transplant, chemotherapy, and in some cases, radiation.
Different stages of liver cancer
After a patient is diagnosed with liver cancer, doctors try to determine its spread. This process is called staging. Liver cancer stages range from stage one through stage four. The lower the number, the less cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage four, means cancer has spread more.
Doctors use different staging systems for liver cancer by finding out the size of the tumor, how large has the tumor grown, are there multiple tumors in the liver, and has cancer reached nearby structures like the veins in the liver? Several tests are conducted to check if cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant organs such as the bones or lungs.
Liver cancer is usually staged based on the results of the physical exam, biopsies, and imaging tests like ultrasound, CT or MRI scan, etc. This is known as the clinical stage. If surgery is done, the pathologic stage also known as the surgical stage is determined by examining tissue removed during an operation.
Symptoms of end-stage liver disease may include easy bleeding or bruising, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin, intense itching, nausea, problems with concentration and memory, and swelling due to fluid buildup in the abdomen.
The stage of liver cancer is one of the most important factors in evaluating treatment options. The patient has to make the decision for treatment after determining the stage, or progression of the disease. Liver cancer specialists use a variety of diagnostic tests to evaluate liver cancer and develop an individualized treatment plan. They review the pathology of the patient to confirm if he has received the correct diagnosis and staging information and develop a personalized treatment plan. Comprehensive testing is done to identify a treatment approach that is suited to the patient’s needs.
Class A patients are those with normal liver function, those with mild abnormalities are classified as class B, and those with severe abnormalities are class C. Liver cancer patients with class C cirrhosis are generally not fit to receive treatment.
During stage one, the single primary tumor has not grown into any blood vessels. Cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.
During stage two the primary tumor has grown into the blood vessels, or several small tumors are present. Cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.
During stage three several tumors have been found, and at least one is larger than five centimeters. Cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites. This the stage, when the tumor has grown into a nearby organ or the tumor, has grown into the outer covering of the liver.
During stage four, liver cancer spreads to nearby lymph nodes and may have grown into nearby blood vessels or organs.
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