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The different types of liver cancer: how to recognize them?

There are many forms of liver cancer. Some types are common, but others are extremely rare. Most types of liver cancer can have similar symptoms related to their presence. Some liver cancers have a much better prognosis than others. Liver cancer occurs when liver cells grow abnormally.

This article takes an in-depth look at various types of liver cancer, highlighting their symptoms and incidence rate. It also discusses how doctors diagnose and classify this disease.

1 Hepatocellular carcinoma

Scientists define hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) as a major form of primary liver cancer. Liver cancers initially form in the liver. HCC usually develops in people with cirrhosis due to pre-existing chronic liver problems, such as alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease, or chronic viral hepatitis. According to a 2022 article in Trusted Source magazine, HCC accounts for approximately 90% of primary liver cancers. It is the fifth most common form of cancer worldwide, affecting approximately 2-4% of people with cirrhosis.

The symptoms of HCC are:

abdominal pain
abdominal distension
fluid buildup in the abdomen
weightloss
feeling full faster than usual
fever
hyperglycemia
high level of calcium in the blood
skin itch
jaundice

2 Fibrolamellar carcinoma

Scientists describe hepatocellular fibrolamellar carcinoma (FL-CHF) as a different type of liver cancer than HCC. According to a 2022 article, unlike HCC, which typically affects people over the age of 50, FL-HCC most often affects people between the ages of 5 and 35, primarily in the second and third decades of life. . FL-HCC accounts for only about 1% of primary liver cancers. A 2021 study estimates that FL-HCC affects only about 0.02 in 100,000 people. Symptoms of FL-HCC include abdominal pain and an enlarged liver or abdominal mass.

3 cholangiocarcinoma

Technically speaking, cholangiocarcinoma is not liver cancer. However, it can affect the liver. Cholangiocarcinoma is cancer of the bile ducts, which are the tubes that connect the liver, gallbladder, and small intestine. Cholangiocarcinomas develop from the network of bile ducts that exist within the liver. They are the second most common primary cancers affecting the liver, with HCC being the first.

According to a 2019 study, cholangiocarcinoma affected approximately 1.26 people per 100,000 people between 2001 and 2015.

The symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma are:

abdominal pain
weightloss
fever
night sweats
tired
skin itch
jaundice
clay-colored stools
dark colored urine

4 Angiosarcoma of the liver

Angiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood and lymph vessels. When it starts in the blood or lymph vessels inside the liver, scientists call it hepatic angiosarcoma. Although hepatic angiosarcoma is the third most common primary cancer affecting the liver, it accounts for only 0.1% to 2% of these cancers. However, because it is so rare, scientists cannot estimate its incidence with certainty.

The symptoms of hepatic angiosarcoma are as follows:

abdominal pain
abdominal distension
weightloss
tired
jaundice

5 Hepatoblastoma

Scientists consider hepatoblastoma to be a primary liver cancer. It is the most common liver cancer in children and babies. Most cases of hepatoblastoma begin within the first 2 years of life. The global incidence of this disease remains unclear. A 2019 article states that between 2000 and 2015, the incidence of hepatoblastoma dropped from 1.89 to 2.16 per 1,000,000 people.

The symptoms of hepatoblastoma are:

a painful abdominal mass that grows rapidly
weightloss
anorexy

6 liver metastases

Health professionals define liver metastases as liver cancers that begin in another part of the body and eventually spread to the liver. Doctors sometimes call them secondary liver cancers. A 2022 article notes that the liver is one of the most common organs in which other types of cancer spread. If a non-liver cancer metastasizes, there is a 25% chance that it will spread to the liver.

The symptoms of liver metastases are:

abdominal distension
fluid buildup in the abdomen
feeling full faster than usual
changes in bowel habits
metabolic changes
weightloss
jaundice
bloody stool
encephalopathy

Contact a doctor

Anyone with symptoms of liver cancer should see a doctor. In fact, an early diagnosis can change a person’s future prospects.

Diagnosis and staging

If doctors suspect that a person has liver cancer, they may recommend additional tests. Tests for liver cancer may include imaging techniques, biopsies, and blood tests. Doctors can also use some of these techniques to determine the stage of a person’s liver cancer. Understanding liver cancer takes several factors into account:

the size and number of liver tumors
the extent of spread to nearby lymph nodes or nearby organs
the extent of spread to distant lymph nodes or distant organs.
There are four main stages of liver cancer. However, health experts still divide stages 1, 3, and 4 into two substages. Higher stages represent more advanced cancer.

Resume

Liver cancer is a disease that takes many forms. Some liver cancers start within the liver, while others spread from other types of cancer. Many liver cancers affect older people. However, some liver cancers are more common in people early in life. The prognosis for liver cancer is highly variable. For example, hepatoblastoma has a fairly high survival rate, at least with treatment. By contrast, the prognosis for people with liver metastases, cholangiocarcinoma, or hepatic angiosarcoma is quite poor.
Despite this, getting an early diagnosis can significantly increase the survival rate of a person with liver cancer.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO EVENT can the information provided replace the opinion of a health professional.

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