Liver cancer

What is liver cancer?
Liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is cancer that starts in the liver. The liver is the largest organ in the body and it is primarily responsible for making enzymes that digest food and removing harmful substances from the blood.

What causes liver cancer?
No one knows exactly why some people get liver cancer and others don’t, but there are some factors that may increase the risk of developing it:
• Being infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV)
• Abusing alcohol or being a heavy drinker of alcohol over a long period of time
• Having hemachromatosis (a condition in which there is too much iron stored in the body)
• Having cirrhosis, which is a serious liver disease that can arise from being infected with hepatitis B or C or from heavy alcohol use. There are other causes of cirrhosis too, such as exposure to certain parasites or hemachromatosis.
• Obesity
• Diabetes
• Diseases of the colon (such as ulcerative colitis)

Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that a person will definitely get liver cancer.

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?
• Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
• Pain in the torso on the right side
• Bloating or swelling in the upper abdomen
• Dark urine
• Stools that are pale or float in the toilet
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea
• Fatigue
• Weight loss for an unknown reason

However, most of these signs and symptoms do not usually appear in the early stages of the cancer, which is why we strongly recommend that people take regular early detection tests which can diagnose cancer in its early, most curable stages.

How is liver cancer diagnosed?
Physicians at KHCC use a variety of techniques to accurately diagnose and stage liver cancer:
• Ultrasound Imaging
• CT scan
• MRI scan
• ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography), which is a procedure used to examine and diagnose diseases of the liver, bile ducts, and pancreas.
• Image-guided biopsy (through ultrasound or CT)
• Alpha fetoprotein blood test
• Laparoscopic biopsy to obtain tissue samples in and around the liver for further study

How is liver cancer treated at KHCC?
The treating physician will present the case to the MDC panel who will determine the right treatment for the patient depending on how much the cancer has spread throughout the body.
Depending on the extent of the tumor, doctors may be able to remove the entire tumor surgically. This is usually the first form of treatment. The amount of surgery and after-care, including chemotherapy depends on how far the cancer has spread. For patients who can’t have surgery, other treatments may be able to help them live longer and feel better.

Novel techniques to attack the tumor include local delivery of chemotherapy through feeding vessels (chemoembolization) and local tumor ablation using radiofrequency probes that focus heat on the tumor. These techniques are already available at the King Hussein Cancer Center. For patients who can’t have surgery, other treatments may be able to help them live longer and feel better.

At KHCC, liver cancer patients receive top quality care through a multidisciplinary team of specialists highly experienced in treating liver cancer and other gastrointestinal tumors.

Supportive Care
The gastrointestinal multidisciplinary clinic works in close cooperation with other departments at KHCC so that liver cancer patients receive the most comprehensive care possible. Supportive care services at KHCC include:
• For patients who have to have temporary or permanent colostomies, a stoma team is on hand to counsel them and show them how to use colostomy pouches.