Liver cancer diagnosis and treatment

Cancer is an insidious disease, often at the initial stages of its symptoms are similar to other ailments, which complicates the diagnosis. In the later stages, treatment is often useless; it is only possible to alleviate the suffering. To detect tumors, diagnostics in a liver cancer clinic by ultrasound is recommended, as well as a number of laboratory tests.

Thus, it is possible to determine the pathology, while there is still no metastasis. Constant attention to your health with existing risk factors or hereditary predisposition will minimize the damage to health.

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In the early stages, liver cancer is difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are virtually non-existent. The doctor cannot feel the swelling with his hands or identify it by visual examination.

But a person who monitors his health should pay attention to alarming manifestations:

  • often disturbing feeling unwell
  • a sudden rise in temperature
  • drastic weight loss,
  • loss of energy, chronic fatigue syndrome,
  • improper work of the digestive tract,
  • decreased hemoglobin,
  • discomfort under the right rib.

At subsequent stages, an increase in the volume of the abdomen is observed, the doctor can feel the tumor without special equipment. There is pain in the area on palpation, an increase in the size of the gland is clearly manifested.

When the development of the disease begins, a symptom such as a yellowish skin color appears. The consequences of liver failure are revealed, that is, poor digestion of food, weakness, a change in the color of feces and urine. The affected organ becomes denser, tubercles appear on its surface.

In the case of the development of a pathological process on the basis of liver cirrhosis, the painful process is faster and more pronounced. Side effects of oncology intensify, the patient suffers from chills, nosebleeds, pains in the right side are becoming stronger.

Risk group – HIV-infected, patients with chronic hepatitis. If measures were not taken in time or they did not give results, metastasis begins. A snapshot of ultrasound metastases in the photo usually shows that they pass to the unaffected lobes of the gland and the nearest organs.

The most common lesion is carcinoma, as it looks, you can find out from the images on the Internet. This oncology is formed from mutated epithelial cells, which at first cease to perform the functions assigned to them, and then rapidly grow.

Blood tests

To obtain a picture of the disease, a blood test is prescribed for liver cancer and its first symptoms. It is necessary to undergo the following types of biomaterial research:

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  • On tumor markers – specific substances present in the blood only in cancer patients.
  • General – applied in the early stages.
  • Biochemical – Doctors study the activity of liver enzymes.

After a blood test is performed for suspected oncology, the obtained indicators will be able to indicate pathology. But since deviations from the norm are possible with a number of other diseases, it is impossible to immediately diagnose.

Therefore, if a person knows how to check the liver, then only a doctor can make a diagnosis.

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General and biochemical

Tumor formations during the growth process take a large amount of nutrients from the body. In the process of formation, they release various substances, including toxins. A general blood test, if a tumor is suspected, can show changes in the body.

Oncology often causes a decrease in hemoglobin, the appearance of echinocytes – altered erythrocytes. Toxin poisoning also leads to an increase in erythrocyte sedimentation rate, a decrease in lymphocyte levels and an increase in neutrophils. But such manifestations are possible with other diseases, for example, histiocytosis, inflammatory processes.

A biochemical blood test for cancer or LHC is the main way to detect violations at the stage of the primary examination of the liver. The functioning of the organ is assessed based on the information received about the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. A standard study includes screening with six indicators, the following results, expressed in μmol/liter, are considered the norm:

  • Total or indirect bilirubin – 3,4 – 17,1 in adults and children, except infants,
  • Direct bilirubin – up to 4,3,
  • Total alkaline phosphatase – 1-3 paranitrophenol and from 0,5 to 1,3 inorganic phosphorus,
  • ALT – in a healthy man from 0,5 to 2, in a healthy woman 0,5-1,5,
  • AsAT – 0,1-0,45,
  • Gamma-glutamyl-transpeptidase – in males: from 15 to 106, the norm for women is 10-66.

After biochemistry, patients with suspected malignant tumor are often prescribed a study for tumor markers.

Blood for tumor markers

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In the urine and blood of people affected by cancer, there are special proteins – tumor markers. They are produced by tumor tissues at the initial stages of the disease, which makes diagnosis possible while there are still no obvious signs of the disease and severe malaise.

In about 8 out of 10 patients, tests for liver cancer in the early stages show an increased level of alpha-fetoprotein, a tumor marker of this organ. The maintenance rate for adults is 15 ng/ml.

Due to the fact that each protein with a high degree of accuracy indicates the focus of the disease, early diagnosis is possible. The patient receives the results of the analysis in 1-2 days; for an additional fee in a private clinic, this period is reduced to several hours.

However, the study of tumor markers does not always give a reliable picture of the location of the tumor. An increase in the concentration of AFP is also possible during pregnancy with fetal defects, hepatitis, cirrhosis.

Urine tests

When a urinalysis is performed for liver cancer, the indicators often cannot be an indicator of changes. However, the appearance of blood in urine or ketone bodies indicates tissue breakdown due to increased catabolism.

However, ketone bodies can also be found in dieters and diabetics. Therefore, this examination is always used in conjunction with more accurate diagnostic methods.

Instrumental diagnostics

If liver tumors are diagnosed, instrumental methods are often used. All of them are based on the study of liver tissue, which is extracted in various ways:

  • Puncture involves the introduction of a thin needle into the abdominal cavity. Before the procedure, the patient is given local anesthesia. To control the movement of the instrument, ultrasound or CT is used. When the needle enters the tumor tissue, the doctor selects a piece of biomaterial for further examination. There are pictures of liver cancer on the Internet that give the patient an idea of ​​the disease. But only a specialist with the necessary set of equipment can recognize oncology by a sample taken.
  • Liver endoscopy or laparoscopy is performed using a special apparatus – an endoscope with a built-in video camera. Such devices are of two types – rigid metal and flexible, transmitting images through optical fibers. The device is introduced into the body through natural openings – anus or mouth. The specialist on the screen can see the location of the tumor and its size.
  • If you are interested in how to diagnose oncology by surgery, then a biopsy is used in this case. The physician takes several particles of the neoplasm, the number of which depends on the existing foci. The taken material is sent for laboratory research.

Ultrasound diagnostics

Ultrasound shows neoplasms in the liver with a fairly high accuracy and is considered the main way to study a diseased organ. Diagnostics by ultrasound gives a chance to determine the size of the neoplasm, localization, whether it is malignant.

In order not to confuse oncology with other diseases with similar symptoms, a puncture is performed. This action is possible without injury to the skin.

An ultrasound examination is based on the propagation of sound at a specific frequency. It is not included in the range of frequencies audible to humans, but with computer processing of reflected sound vibrations, it is possible to display a picture of the disease in the case of a tumor process. What does cancer look like? An ultrasound photo will allow you to find out a sonogram – an image of a diseased liver obtained as a result of the procedure.

Many are interested in research whether it is possible to determine the exact location of the tumor on an ultrasound scan. Even during a biopsy, an ultrasound machine is used so that the doctor can get the needle into the right place on the organ. Re-carrying out the procedure allows you to track the effectiveness of the applied treatment. Ultrasound examination is inexpensive, devices are available in every hospital.

When asked whether ultrasound shows liver cancer, it is worth answering that the method of performing the operation and the qualifications of the doctor matter. The result is influenced by the location of equipment and sensors. The indicators obtained in another clinic may differ, so they cannot be called 100 percent accurate.

Magnetic resonance imaging

An expensive procedure that is not performed in every medical facility. Usually, the device is installed in private clinics, and not everyone can pay for the procedure. But it is completely painless, approved for pregnant women, and has no side effects.

Using MRI, it is possible to accurately determine the presence of oncology at any stage of the disease. But not everyone can undergo such a survey. It is not tolerated by people with claustrophobia, nor is it suitable for obese patients who simply cannot fit inside the machine.

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Computed tomography

It is a painless procedure using a contrast agent that is visible on instruments.

The patient takes a special drug, thanks to which the contours of the organs become clearly visible.

Thus, using CT, liver cancer can be accurately detected, while assessing the size of the tumor and its location in relation to the blood vessels.

The device will give not a flat picture, but a set of images of sections of the human body.


This is a technique, the action of which is carried out by the introduction of a contrast agent containing iodine. It is used in X-ray examinations, computed tomography and MRI. When performing X-rays or other examinations, the doctor modulates the view of the organ in a three-dimensional image. By the location of the blood vessels, it is judged to what extent the organ is affected, whether there are tumors.

This examination helps with the forthcoming planning of the operation, including embolization. In case of bleeding, which can be a side effect of liver cancer, blood diagnostics by angiography, use medication to stop the blood. Vasopressin or emboli are injected into the bleeding vessel, causing blockage.

Liver biopsy

It is prescribed with an increased content of hepatic tumor markers. The procedure allows you to determine the structure of the liver and the extent of the lesion, as well as to find out exactly whether the tumor is malignant. Taking a biopsy has a certain degree of risk associated with a high concentration of blood vessels in the liver. Many patients complain of pain during the biopsy.

There are also the following risks:

  • if the sampling tool enters the vessel, bleeding is possible,
  • puncture of the intestine, lung or gallbladder with a needle,
  • penetration of pathogenic microbes into the body.

After the procedure, it is important that the patient is transported from the hospital. Returning home, you need to stay in bed until the next day. During the week, you can not carry weights, engage in physical activity. The test results will be ready in 7-14 days.

Svetlana Borszavich

General practitioner, cardiologist, with active work in therapy, gastroenterology, cardiology, rheumatology, immunology with allergology.
Fluent in general clinical methods for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, as well as electrocardiography, echocardiography, monitoring of cholera on an ECG and daily monitoring of blood pressure.
The treatment complex developed by the author significantly helps with cerebrovascular injuries and metabolic disorders in the brain and vascular diseases: hypertension and complications caused by diabetes.
The author is a member of the European Society of Therapists, a regular participant in scientific conferences and congresses in the field of cardiology and general medicine. She has repeatedly participated in a research program at a private university in Japan in the field of reconstructive medicine.