Primary liver cancer: Causes, symptoms and risk factors of this tumour | Health

Imagine a scenario where you’re perfectly healthy and all of a sudden, you’re diagnosed with liver cancer at an advanced stage. Sounds terrifying, isn’t it? One chilling characteristic of liver cancer is its stealthy growth almost devoid of warning signs until it’s too late and this highlights the immense importance of screening for this particular type of cancer.

Primary liver cancer: Causes, symptoms and risk factors of this tumour (Shutterstock)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Uday Sanglodkar, Senior Consultant Hepatologist and Clinical Lead Liver and Transplant ICU at Global Hospitals in Parel, shared, “Liver cancer, specifically primary liver cancer, refers to a harmful tumor that originates in the liver. It can be classified into various types, with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), also known as hepatoma, being the most prevalent. This particular type of primary liver cancer initiates from the principal cell type found in the liver – the hepatocytes.”


Dr Uday Sanglodkar revealed, “Liver cancer occurs when there are alterations or mutations in the DNA of liver cells. This can result in cells growing uncontrollably and forming a tumour composed of cancerous cells. In certain cases, the cause behind liver cancer is identifiable like chronic hepatitis infections. However, there are instances where liver cancer develops in individuals with no pre-existing conditions and its cause remains unknown.”


Highlighting that in the initial phases of primary liver cancer, the majority of individuals experience no noticeable signs or symptoms, Dr Uday Sanglodkar, said, “When these do manifest, they could include unexpected weight loss, a decrease in appetite, pain in the upper abdomen, feelings of nausea accompanied by vomiting, an overall sense of weakness and fatigue, swelling in the abdominal area, a yellowish tint to your skin and eye whites known as jaundice, and stools that have a white chalky appearance.”

Risk factors:

Dr Uday Sanglodkar pointed out, “Primary liver cancer risk can be escalated by several factors. These include enduring infections with either the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV), both heighten the likelihood of developing liver cancer. Cirrhosis, a severe and irreversible condition characterized by liver scarring, is another contributing factor. Certain hereditary liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis Wilson’s disease, and diabetes can lead to this cancer. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, characterized by fat accumulation in the liver, is another potential risk factor. Excessive alcohol consumption can result in permanent liver damage raising the chances of developing liver cancer.”

Asserting that timely screening is important for liver cancer, he said, “Diagnosing liver cancer early greatly increases survival rates, but this can be tricky because its initial symptoms may mimic common maladies like fatigue or loss of appetite. The subtlety of these symptoms emphasises the need for regular screenings, especially for high-risk individuals. Early detection of liver cancer can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment and survival rates. Timely screening allows the treating doctor to target malignancies before they progress into later, more deadly stages. Liver cancer often shows no symptoms until its advanced stage. Therefore, routine screenings become an undeniably crucial shield in the battle against this silent killer.”

He concluded, “Non-invasive tests such as ultrasound scans and blood tests for Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and imaging techniques empower doctors with accurate information about the patient’s liver without performing a single cut! Ultrasound examinations are typically the first line of detection featuring a noninvasive approach to identify any malicious growths. CT scans and MRIs provide an intricate view of the tumor’s size and location. So, do not miss your regular liver screening appointments.”

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