Metastatic liver cancer, also known as secondary cancer, is what we call cancer that has spread to the liver from another area of the body. It often spreads from the lungs, the breasts, the large intestine, the pancreas, or the stomach. Whenever a cancer cell breaks off of one of these areas, it enters the blood stream. When the liver filters the blood, the cancer cell sticks inside of the liver, and continues to grow, turning into metastatic liver cancer.
The first symptoms one experiences with metastatic liver cancer are not always dead giveaways to liver cancer. They are usually vague, such as weight loss, poor appetite, and sometimes fever. In most cases, the liver will be enlarged and hard, but in some cases it may feel soft and lumpy. The abdominal cavity may swell and the person may show signs of mild jaundice. In the weeks before death, the jaundice will likely worsen, and the person will become confused, due to toxins in the brain that the liver is unable to filter.
If a doctor has a suspicion of liver cancer, he/she will first perform a blood test, which (in the case of liver cancer) will return abnormal results, as with any other disease or illness. The next step will be either ultrasonography, a CT, or MRI. These are more likely to reveal liver cancer, but they are not as reliable in identifying smaller tumors. A liver biopsy, or a removal of a section of liver tissue, is performed if the final diagnosis is unclear.
As with all cancers, there is no magical cure that will fix metastatic liver cancer, but some common attempts are:
- Chemotherapy temporarily shrinks the liver, but there is no evidence that it actually cures the cancer.
- While radiation also does not cure the cancer, in some cases it has been reported to reduce severe pain.
- If only a few tumors are found, some doctors will remove them through surgery, but this is not always worth while.
If you or someone you know has cancer, you will find a list of helpful hotlines here .
Herrine, Steven. ” Metastatic Liver Cancer “