Liver cancer: Expert discusses symptoms and treatments
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Drinking more than 14 units per week, equivalent to less than two bottles of wine, could be causing scar tissue to form in the liver. Alcohol, after all, is a toxin. Alcoholic fatty liver disease develops in stages, from a build-up of fat in the organ to permanent scar tissue. The presence of alcoholic fatty liver disease also puts a person at increased risk of liver cancer.
According to statistics put forward by Drinkaware – an independent charity to reduce alcohol-related harm – every year, three out of 100 people with a damaged liver will develop cancer.
Signs of a damaged liver:
- Abdominal (tummy) pain
- Loss of appetite
Drinkaware stated: “Drinking alcohol causes liver cancer.” One in fourteen cases of liver cancer can be attributed to alcohol consumption.
“That means that, in the UK, at least 400 cases of liver cancer each year are caused by alcohol,” Drinkaware noted.
The warning signs of liver cancer:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Having little to no appetite
- Feeling full after a small meal
- Nausea and vomiting for more than a few days
- Stomach pain or swelling for more than a few days
- A lump in the right side of the abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
- Unexplained and persistent fatigue.
Early diagnosis is associated with an improved chance of survival, so if you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself, book an appointment with your doctor.
“Even if it turns out not to be cancer, these symptoms are always worth getting checked out,” Drinkaware added.
What will happen at the doctor’s office?
The NHS explained that a doctor may feel the stomach for a lump, and they may also listen to your chest.
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If the doctor believes you should have a further assessment, you will be referred to hospital.
While the referral might be alarming, it is usually a precautionary step to investigate what is causing your symptoms.
How to minimise the risk of liver cancer
Aside from abstaining from alcohol consumption, there are other ways to help reduce your risk of developing liver cancer.
Such measures include losing weight if you are overweight, not smoking, and wearing protective clothing if you work in a job where you’re exposed to harmful chemicals.
Even if alcoholic fatty liver disease does not progress to liver cancer, the condition is still critical.
Drinking an excess amount of alcohol, over a regular period of time, can lead to an extensively damaged liver that may stop functioning.
“A person who has alcohol-related cirrhosis and does not stop drinking has a less than 50 percent chance of living for at least five more years,” the NHS warned.
If you require a liver transplant, there can be a lengthy wait on the NHS, as there is a short supply.
“You’ll only be considered for a liver transplant if you have developed complications of cirrhosis despite having stopped drinking,” the health body added.
Do I have a problem with drinking?
You may need help to stop drinking if:
- You often feel the need to have a drink
- You get into trouble because of your drinking
- Other people warn you about how much you’re drinking
- You think your drinking is causing you problems.
If you need support in changing your drinking habits, you can contact Drinkline for free on 0300 123 1110.
The free helpline is open on weekdays from 9am to 8pm; weekends are from 11am to 4pm.
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