The liver is a large organ that sits on the upper right side of the human abdomen. The weight is about 3 pounds and it has a reddish-brown color. The liver is divided into two large sections: the right and the left lobes. It performs several important functions in our body, including metabolizing the nutrients, medicines, and alcohol, digesting fats and many more.
Next to the liver sits the gallbladder, along with parts of the pancreas and intestines. These organs along with liver help in the digestion of food in the body.
There are several types of liver conditions arising due to a multiple number of factors. These include:
- Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver caused by viruses such as hepatitis A, B, and C.
- Cirrhosis: Long-term damage to the liver leading to permanent scarring, called cirrhosis. This has the potential to develop into liver cancer.
- Liver failure: can occur as a result of certain genetic diseases, and/or excessive alcohol. People with end-stage liver failure may need a liver transplant.
- Ascites: This condition occurs due to progressing liver disease. As the liver leaks fluid into the abdomen, which causes inflammation and swelling.
- Gallstones: If a gallstone becomes stuck in the bile duct, it can cause liver infection.
- Hemochromatosis: it is the condition in which there is an excess of iron deposition around the liver. This results in malfunctioning of the liver, leading to several health problems.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis: it is a rare disease that causes inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts in the liver.
- Primary biliary cirrhosis: It causes slow destruction of bile ducts, and results in liver scarring which is permanent.
How can liver damage be prevented?
Many liver conditions can be prevented by avoiding the known risk factors –
- Avoid hepatitis B and C infections
The most common cause of liver failure worldwide is chronic liver infection with Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV).
HBV and HCV can spread from person to person by sharing contaminated needles (in drug use), through unprotected sex, and through childbirth.
These infections may be avoided by using fresh sterile needles and by implementing safer sex practices (using condoms).
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children and adults who are at risk of getting this infection should get the HBV vaccine to reduce the incidence of hepatitis and liver cancer. There is no vaccine for HCV, hence it can only be prevented by treating the known symptoms and signs, and by implementing safer drug and sex practices.
The CDC recommends that a person should get tested for HCV if the person –
- Is born from 1945 through 1965.
- Has a history of injecting drugs (even just once or a long time ago)
- Takes medicine for a blood clotting problem
- Has received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Was on long-term hemodialysis
- Anyone who is infected with HIV
There are a number of drugs that are used to treat chronic HBV. These drugs can’t cure the infection, but reduce the viral load in the bloodstream. The aim of the treatments is to reduce the risk of liver failure and liver cancer.
- Limit alcohol and tobacco use
Drinking alcohol can lead to cirrhosis, which may ultimately lead to liver cancer. Moderation in the intake of alcohol or complete abstinence could help prevent liver cancer.
Smoking is also amongst the top factor that can cause liver cancer. It is advised to not smoke if the person is predisposed to liver infections, because smoking can increase the chances of liver cancer.
- Avoiding obesity
Avoiding obesity is another way to help protect against liver cancer. Obese people are more susceptible to have fatty liver and diabetes, both of which make the body more risked for liver cancer.
- Limit exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
Changing the way grains are stored in can reduce exposure to cancer-causing substances such as aflatoxins. There are regulations in different countries for the same, to keep a tab on the use of cancer-causing chemicals.
- Treat diseases that increase liver cancer risk
Some diseases which are inherited can cause liver scarring which can increase a person’s risk for liver cancer. Treatment of these diseases in early stages can lower this risk.
For instance, children who are exposed to high risks of developing liver cancer need to be screened at regular intervals to keep a check.
The treatment option available for Liver Cancer depends on the extent (stage) of the disease along with the patient’s age, overall health, and personal preferences.
- Surgery – multiple number of options are available to treat liver cancers:
- Surgically removing the tumor.
- Liver transplant surgery. A liver transplant surgery is done to replace a diseased liver with a healthy one. Liver transplant surgery is only an option for early-stage liver cancer. Liver Transplant Cost in India depends on the following factors –
- Type of the transplant
- The stage of the liver disease
- Choice of the hospital – location and accreditation
- Surgeon’s experience
- Length of hospital stay
- Room category