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Think beyond pink

October shines a light on liver cancer awareness

October has us all thinking pink, but did you know that October is also Liver Cancer Awareness Month?

Liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular cancer or HCC, is relatively rare in the United States, but the incidence is on the rise, largely due to hepatitis C. However, by knowing and modifying the risk factors, you can lower your risk.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

Risk factors for HCC include history of hepatitis C or B infection, fatty deposition of liver, obesity, diabetes, excessive alcohol use and certain inherited conditions such as iron overload.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and over time can cause serious liver damage. The good news is that today, most cases of hepatitis C can be cured with oral medications taken for two to six months. The problem is that most people with hepatitis C don’t realize they are infected, mainly because symptoms can take decades to appear. The largest group of people at risk are those born between 1945 and 1965. Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood, so other risk factors are intravenous drug use and blood transfusion before 1992, amongst others.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you think you may be at risk, talk to your provider about being tested. You can lower your risk by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, weight control and limiting alcohol intake.

If a family member has had a genetic condition such as hemochromatosis that caused liver damage, talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested for this as well.

Liver cancer is treatable, and even curable, when caught early. If you already have a condition that may increase your risk for liver cancer, you may be a candidate for liver cancer screening. Screening can help find cancer at an early stage and improve patient outcomes. Ask your doctor if screening is appropriate for you.


DID YOU KNOW

  • The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It filters harmful substances from the blood, creates bile that helps in the digestion of fats and stores sugar that the body uses for energy.
  • Almost 300 million people worldwide are living with hepatitis B, which puts them at higher risk for developing liver cancer.
  • In the U.S., liver cancer incidence has more than tripled since 1980.
  • Some of the signs and symptoms of liver cancer, according to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, include:
    • Weight loss (without trying)
    • Loss of appetite
    • Feeling very full after a small meal
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • An enlarged liver, felt as fullness under the ribs on the right side
    • An enlarged spleen, felt as fullness under the ribs on the left side
    • Pain in the abdomen (belly) or near the right shoulder blade
    • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen (belly)
    • Itching
    • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Dr. Pamela Tuli is a hematologist-oncologist practicing with The Medical Oncology Group – Memorial Physician Clinics. She can be contacted at (228)-575-1234.

Written by Dr. Pamela Tuli

Dr. Pamela Tuli is a hematologist-oncologist practicing with The Medical Oncology Group - Memorial Physician Clinics. She can be contacted at (228)-575-1234.

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