Liver Cancer Overview
Cancer of the liver is a very serious condition which can generally progress in a short amount of time. This is because the liver is responsible for a lot of essential body functions. These include the digestion of fats and proteins, the removal of toxins, the production of chemicals that are instrumental in stopping blood from clotting, and the release of bile to aid digestion. End stage liver cancer can prove fatal, because at this stage, there will already be huge amounts of damage to the liver and irreversible disruption to several body functions.
The Signs and Symptoms of End Stage Liver Cancer
Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained weight loss is frequently seen in patients with cancer. It is sometimes the reason why patients go to their physician and be diagnosed with some form of cancer in the body.
The collection or accumulation of body fluids in the abdominal area is known as ascitis. Damage to the liver can result in decrease of protein in the blood, and may result in the transfer of fluid into the abdominal cavity. Patients may experience increase in the size of the abdomen, and the appearance of spider angiomas, or blood vessels that look like spider webs, in the skin of the abdomen.
Jaundice in liver cancer frequently manifest due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the body.
The liver functions in the removal of toxins inside the body. When damage to the liver occurs due to end stage liver cancer, there is the accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. One of these harmful substances is ammonia, a by-product of protein breakdown. In liver cancer, ammonia usually accumulates in high amounts, and is capable of reaching the brain. This results in the manifestation of symptoms of end stage liver cancer known as hepatic encephalopathy. These include confusion, mood changes, poor concentration, and changes in sleep patterns. Severe presentations of this condition are drowsiness, shaking of the extremities, and agitation, with some patients becoming unresponsive and unconscious and may even become comatose.
Esophageal varices are veins which are abnormally enlarged located in the lower portion of the esophagus. This often occurs when there is blockage in the normal flow of blood to the liver. When this happens, there is backflow of blood into the smaller vessels esophagus, stomach or rectum, resulting in their swelling. Since these are fragile vessels, they have tendency to rupture and thus cause bleeding, which can be a life-threatening situation. Patients with bleeding esophageal varices may present with blood in the stool, may also vomit blood, become lightheaded, or may go into shock.
Patients with end stage liver cancer are usually admitted in hospitals for proper management of their condition.
Mayo Clinic: Hepatitis C
Medline Plus: Hepatic Encephalopathy
MayoClinic.com: Esophageal Varices
MedicineNet.com: Liver Cancer