Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals division is calling for early detection of liver cancer to help save lives, highlighting that the disease afflicts around 4 percent of cancer patients in Lebanon, and is projected to rise to over 6 percent of cases among women and around 8 percent of cases among men by 2018.
“Liver cancer causes death more often than many other tumors, and patients are usually diagnosed with late-stage disease,” said Dr. Fady Nasr, Head of the Oncology Department at Beirut’s Mount Lebanon Hospital. “That’s why it’s especially important that potential patients with either a family history of cancer, who are high risk for certain types of Hepatitis contraction, are obese, or drink alcohol in significant quantities get tested for Liver Cancer to detect the disease earlier and enhance their treatment options.”
Liver Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death globally, accounting for approximately 746,000 deaths worldwide a year. In Europe, less than 10 percent of patients live for more than five years after diagnosis.
The most common form of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which accounts for about 90 percent of the total liver cancer burden worldwide.
Prevention and Detection
In eight out of ten people who develop HCC, the malignant change in the cells is preceded by chronic hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is also regarded as a potential precursor of a tumor, as is cirrhosis of the liver, a pathological change in the liver tissue involving shrinkage. Two to three decades can pass before the carcinoma develops. There are additional risk factors that increase the likelihood of a tumor developing, such as excessive alcohol consumption and obesity.
The early detection of HCC is crucial for successful treatment, because the tumor can be surgically removed in early stage disease. In many cases, diagnoses are made when the disease has progressed past the point of surgical resection.
According to an estimate by the German Cancer Society, 70% of HCC diagnoses are made in patients with unresectable disease. Symptoms usually do not occur until the disease has reached an advanced stage – and to some extent symptoms are relatively non-specific. They include loss of appetite and nausea, as well as pressure and pain in the upper abdomen.
A blood test and an ultrasound examination can detect HCC, and computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can then confirm a possible diagnosis.