Liver cancer is also known as hepatic carcinoma; This disease is malignant liver tissue. Although this disease is rare in western industrialized countries, the trend is increasing. In Southeast Asia and Africa, however, liver cancer is one of the most common cancers.

What is liver cancer?

The signs of liver cancer are generally rather unspecific at an early stage. The liver can not be felt in most healthy people.
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Malignant tissue in the liver is also called liver cancer. Of this disease, which is quite rare in Germany, men are significantly more frequently affected than women, whereby people over the age of 70 are particularly at risk.

Differences are the primary and the secondary liver cancer. The former is said to be when the cancer develops directly from the cells of the liver, while the secondary liver cancer is metastases that spread from other parts of the body into the liver. This latter form of liver cancer is much more common.


One of the most common causes of liver cancer is cirrhosis of the liver. This disease, also known as shrinking liver, is triggered by alcohol abuse as well as hepatitis.

Alcohol is commonly considered the number one trigger for liver cancer. Likewise, certain medications can cause liver cancer - here are some sex hormones.

Gallstones, cysts and bile ulcers are also known to cause liver cancer. The so-called iron storage disease is the last known cause of liver cancer.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

The signs of liver cancer are generally rather unspecific at an early stage. The liver can not be felt in most healthy people. Repeated pain in the upper abdomen, which can also radiate and the feeling of feeling a swelling below the ribs, should be quickly presented to the family doctor.

The same applies to loss of appetite and unwanted weight loss. Both can be signs of liver problems. When the liver ceases to function as a detoxifying organ due to liver cancer, yellowing of the eyes is observed in many patients. Therefore, yellowish eyes should be clarified promptly by a doctor.

The same applies to spider web-like spots on the cheeks and a red color of the palms. Both symptoms may be due to a dysfunction of the liver. It does not necessarily have to be a carcinoma of the liver. Nevertheless, patches on the face and persistent discoloration of the palms should be presented to a specialist.

Metastases in the liver are often caused by a primary tumor that has been elsewhere in the body. Cancer patients should therefore pay particular attention to pain in the upper abdomen and discoloration of the eyes, so that, if necessary, can be searched immediately for possible metastases in the liver.

Diagnosis & History

The chances of a cure for liver cancer are greater the sooner the disease is detected and treated. Unfortunately, symptoms are usually late and the cancer is already well advanced.

In the early stages, often no symptoms are recognizable, only gradually there are loss of appetite, general nausea and pain in the upper abdomen. Also inexplicable for the patient weight loss may indicate liver cancer. In the advanced stage it can then come to a yellowing of the skin and the eyes. For all the above symptoms you should as a precaution, see a doctor. However, these signs do not necessarily stem from liver cancer, but may also have innocuous causes.

A special form of liver cancer is the bile duct cancer - in this an unmistakable symptom is dark-colored urine. In order to make a clear diagnosis of liver cancer, some investigations are usually necessary. In addition to a comprehensive physical examination, ie the scanning of the liver through the abdominal wall, an ultrasound examination is also necessary.

In this spleen and kidneys can be represented. Furthermore, the doctor will take blood - this blood test can give information about the iron concentration in the blood. If it is not clear whether it is primary or secondary liver cancer, stomach and colonoscopy may be necessary.


Usually, liver cancer is a very serious disease. If untreated, it leads to a premature death of the patient and can significantly limit and reduce the quality of life of the person affected. In most cases, patients suffer from severe abdominal pain and nausea and vomiting.

It also leads to loss of appetite and thus to a weight loss and deficiency symptoms. Those affected feel weak and tired and also suffer from greatly reduced resilience. Likewise, it can come through the liver cancer to jaundice. Other organs can also be damaged by liver cancer, which can lead to kidney failure, for example. Also this leads untreated to the death of the patient.

Usually, liver cancer can only be treated by surgery. The person affected, however, relies on a donor organ. Whether it is successful in transplantation can not be predicted. Furthermore, those affected are also dependent on chemotherapy, which is often associated with various side effects. The life expectancy of the patient is usually significantly reduced by liver cancer.

When should you go to the doctor?

Pain or discomfort at the level of the stomach should be presented to a doctor. If the pain continues to increase or spread further in the upper body, a doctor is needed. In case of a decline in the usual performance, an increased need for sleep or fast fatigue, the person concerned needs medical help. If it comes to a yellowish discoloration of the skin, irregularities in bowel movements or changes in the face, a doctor's visit should be made. Yellow palms or discoloration of the eyes should be presented to a doctor as soon as possible.

Swelling of the upper part of the body, a feeling of tightness in the chest or a general malaise should be examined and treated. Develop below the ribs changes, a doctor's visit is recommended. If disturbances of the blood circulation or the heart rhythm are noticed, the observations should be discussed with a doctor. Interruptions of memory, loss of appetite or loss of self-weight are also indications that should be investigated.

If it comes to emotional abnormalities or apathy, a doctor's visit is recommended. As a rule, regular check-ups and check-ups with a doctor are advisable in adulthood. Since liver cancer can lead to a fatal disease, the controls for early detection are very helpful. In addition, it is vital for the further course to consult a doctor at the first signs and irregularities of the liver activity.

Treatment & Therapy

In many patients with liver cancer surgery is inevitable. Here, either individual parts of the liver are removed or it comes to complete transplantation of the liver, in which the liver is replaced by a donor organ.

The therapy depends on the one hand on the type, location and size of the tumor, on the other hand, but also on the age and health of the patient.

In addition to surgery, local therapy procedures are also possible. These include, for example, liver as well as liver irradiation or contrast therapy. In some patients, the treatment with tablets, such as chemotherapy, can achieve good results.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis for liver cancer is given according to the individual health conditions. If the disease is detected in its early stages, cancer treatment can help relieve the symptoms or make you recover. The treatment is extensive and associated with numerous side effects and risks. In a fundamentally healthy patient with a stable immune system and a middle age, there are prospects for a cure. The older the person affected and the more pre-existing illnesses, the more difficult the course of the disease is.

If the liver cancer is already advanced, the prospects for alleviation decline. If metastases have formed or if the cancer cells were able to spread via the bloodstream in the organism, there is often little chance of a recovery. In addition to surgical intervention, it may be necessary to have a donor organ. In some patients, this is the only way to increase the chances of survival.

Organ transplantation is also associated with various complications. If the operation is successful, the organism must accept the donor organ. If this succeeds, the chances of relieving the symptoms increase. A lifelong treatment is necessary so that the functionality is adequately monitored. Despite the achieved cure of the liver cancer, it can come at any time in the course of further life to a new formation of a carcinoma. The prognosis is worse at a re-infestation.


To prevent liver cancer, one should pay attention to a healthy lifestyle. This includes, in particular, the moderate use of alcohol and cigarette smoking should be largely restricted. Furthermore, the risk of hepatitis B should be reduced as much as possible - a regular vaccination is recommended here.

However, prevention is not the only important thing, and you should not give up aftercare if the disease has been successfully defeated. The first follow-up should be done no later than six months after the operation.


The type of aftercare is related to the outcome of the initial treatment. If the tumor could not be completely removed, life expectancy drops dramatically. Aftercare has a palliative character. This means that the patient receives support for the remaining lifetime. Significant in this context is the pain medication. But even a clarification of elementary life issues can be part of the aftercare.

On the other hand, if liver cancer was defeated in a first-line therapy, the prognosis is positive. The risk of cancer formation should not be underestimated in the coming months and years. Therefore, physicians arrange with their patients scheduled follow-up. In these, a carcinoma in the early stages should be recognized and then treated immediately.

This results in the best chance of recovery. In addition to avoiding a recurrence, the treatment of possible secondary diseases also takes up a great deal of space. Complaints are alleviated by medication. Social and psychological problems can be discussed in therapies.

As a rhythm for the aftercare, initially a three-month interval is recommended. This can be extended from time to time if there are no findings. From the fifth year after diagnosis, an annual follow-up is sufficient. The examinations consist of a magnetic resonance tomography, an ultrasound examination and a blood test.

You can do that yourself

In the case of liver cancer, which is also referred to as liver cancer, it is important that the person concerned can talk openly with his doctor about the treatment and chances of recovery.

Due to the physical discomfort, it is advisable for the patient, to deal with the own body gently. Regular rest periods as well as adequate sleep are of great importance. In addition, maintaining a healthy diet is important. A healthy diet plan should be prepared with a doctor or nutritionist who also takes into account a balanced acid-base balance of the body. Drinking alcohol should be completely avoided as alcohol is harmful to the liver.

In addition to the physical symptoms associated with such a disease, the psyche is also heavily burdened. Psycho-oncologists, psychologists who specialize in cancer patients, offer such care. In addition, it can help the patient, if he participates in a support group for liver cancer patients or for cancer patients. The exchange with other victims leads to a mental relief. The patient learns to deal with his situation and at the same time has several contacts with whom he can communicate.

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