Posts Tagged ‘liver cancer’

Living With Your Liver

October 20th, 2022

Your liver is the second largest organ in your body, behind only your skin. The liver is also the largest gland. It makes and secretes chemicals that are used by other parts of your body to perform key processes. Your liver sits just under your ribcage on your right side. It’s about the size of a football and weighs on average about 3.5 pounds.

The liver is essential for life. It performs more than 500 vital functions that keep your body healthy and working properly. These functions include storing nutrients; removing toxins, waste products and worn-out cells from your blood; filtering and processing chemicals in food, alcohol and medications; and producing bile, a fluid that helps in digestion.

Liver disease is any disorder that negatively impacts the healthy performance of your liver. There are many disorders that fall under this umbrella. They include:

• Viral infections, such as hepatitis.
• Diseases associated with consuming too many toxins, including alcohol-related liver disease and fatty liver disease.
• Inherited diseases, such as hemochromatosis, Wilson disease and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
• Conditions that occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your liver, such as autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cholangitis.
• Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), a condition in which the cells in your liver develop abnormally and grow out of control.
Cirrhosis, a condition in which your liver is severely scarred and permanently damaged.

Without treatment, these conditions can ultimately lead to liver failure, when large parts of your liver become damaged and can’t function anymore. At this point, you may require a liver transplant, when your diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor.

Certain factors increase your risk for liver disease. The most well-known is heavy drinking, which is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as more than eight alcoholic drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men.

Other risk factors include:

• A family history of liver disease.
• Diabetes or high cholesterol.
• A job that exposes you to blood and other body fluids.
• Being overweight or obese.
• Taking certain supplements or herbs, especially in large amounts.
• Mixing certain medications with alcohol.
• Taking more than the recommended dose of certain medications.
• Sharing needles for drug use.
• Having unprotected sex.

Each liver disease has its own signs and symptoms, but some common ones to be aware of include jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes; bleeding or easy bruising; swelling of the legs or ankles; pain in the abdomen; itchy skin; dark urine; pale, bloody or black stools; a buildup of fluid in the belly, called ascites; and fatigue.

To diagnose liver disease, your doctor will review your history and symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination. The doctor will also recommend certain tests, bloodwork to measure liver enzymes. Abnormal levels may indicate problems with your liver function.

Your doctor may also use imaging tests, such as ultrasound, MRI or CT, to look for signs of damage, scarring or tumors in your liver. Another test your doctor may suggest is a liver biopsy, during which a needle is used to remove a small sample of liver tissue for analysis.

Treatment depends on the type of disease and how far it has progressed. In general, treatment for includes medications and lifestyle changes. Medications may include antiviral drugs to treat hepatitis, steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics and other medications to target specific symptoms. An organ transplant is a last resort for liver failure.

While not all diseases can be prevented, you can help keep your liver healthy by making some key lifestyle choices, such as:

• Eat a liver-friendly diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and fiber.
• Exercise regularly.
• Limit alcohol consumption.
• Avoid smoking and using drugs.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Practice safe sex.
• Don’t take more than the recommended dose of medications.
• Drink more water to help remove toxins and flush liver tissues
• Visit a doctor annually for a physical and bloodwork.

October is Liver Awareness Month. Follow these suggestions and live with a healthier liver.

Patti DiPanfilo

You, Your Loved Ones and Liver Cancer

June 1st, 2015

Word cloud illustration in shape of hand print showing protest.Not long ago, someone close to me lost a heroic battle with liver cancer. This makes me want to share some wisdom I garnered from his fight. First of all, maintain a positive attitude. I’m convinced my uncle’s optimistic outlook kept him healthier longer and gave him more strength to deal with the treatment and its side effects. Strength in mind, strength in body! What are your thoughts on the mind-body connection?


Second, never give up! There are many treatment options. If none of the traditional treatments are effective and you’re able, travel to or contact one of the nation’s major cancer centers. They may have an experimental therapy or know of a clinical trial that’s off the radar.


For those who haven’t been diagnosed with liver cancer, don’t wait to see your doctor if you begin to experience any of its symptoms. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin, the better the chances treatment will be effective. Here are some noticeable symptoms of liver cancer according to the American Cancer Society:


  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eating just a little bit but feeling full
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A mass under your ribs on the right side (may be an enlarged liver)
  • A mass under your ribs on the left side (may be an enlarged spleen)
  • Swelling in your abdomen (belly) or near your right shoulder blade
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (called jaundice)
  • Abnormal bruising or bleeding


Lastly, evaluate and modify your risk factors where appropriate. Liver cancer occurs when the DNA in the cells is somehow damaged and the cells begin to malfunction. Exactly why this happens is still somewhat of a mystery, but we know there are factors that put a person at a greater risk for developing this disease.

Some of the factors that increase your risk for liver cancer cannot be changed or prevented, but living a healthy lifestyle can reduce some others. Suggestions to lower liver cancer risk include:


  • Don’t smoke
  • Use alcohol in moderation.
  • Keep diabetes in control.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.


Also, to avoid getting hepatitis, HIV or other viral infections that affect the liver, don’t use IV drugs or share needles, and don’t have unprotected sex. Live healthy – and smart! Do you have any other suggestions?

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