Liver Cancer Is on the Rise Despite Increasing Number of Treatments
Experts call for liver disease patients to get screened for cancer every 6 months.
Liver cancer when caught early is highly treatable and in many cases curable yet the number of new cases in the US has increased 43% in the last 16 years while most other cancers are declining. This October during Liver Cancer Awareness Month, the Global Liver Institute is working to raise awareness for the prevention of liver cancer. This year it is estimated that 42,220 adults (30,610 men and 11,610 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer, with a 5-year survival rate of only 18%.
The Global Liver Institute advises liver disease patients to get screened for cancer every 6 months. Having an awareness of the potential signs and symptoms of liver cancer is the only way to find the disease early. “Unlike most other cancers for which the cause(s) are unknown, the cause of liver cancer is well known, is identifiable, and thus liver cancer is highly preventable with regular screenings,” said Melanie Thomas, MD, Associate Center Director for Experimental Therapeutics, Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute Spartanburg Regional Health System.
The signs and symptoms of liver cancer are often silent in the early stages which is why it is so frequently overlooked. Most often the result of liver damage first signs may include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), right-sided abdominal or shoulder blade pain, or a lump in the right upper abdomen. However, many of the warning signs are non-specific, such as weight loss and fatigue. Sometimes the complications of liver cancer, such as a bile duct obstruction, anemia, or bleeding are the first symptoms. If signs are pointing to liver cancer, tests may be done for an accurate diagnosis. Liver cancer is treatable by an increasing number of therapies, particularly if diagnosed in early stages.
“Liver Cancer is preventable, detectable, and treatable. It frustrates and saddens me to hear time and again from families whose loves ones were diagnosed too late to take any meaningful action. That can and must change,” said Donna Cryer, founder and CEO of the Global Liver Institute.
During Liver Cancer Awareness Month, the Global Liver Institute encourages patients across the country and around the world to make their voice heard with the hashtag #OctoberIs4Livers.
There is increasing evidence that identifying persons at risk for liver cancer due to chronic hepatitis B or C infection, fatty liver disease, or other causes and enrolling them in a regular program of surveillance using blood tests and ultrasound examinations of the liver every 6 months significantly increases the number of cancers that are found at early stages and substantially improves the survival of persons diagnosed with liver cancer,” said Lewis Roberts, MB ChB, PhD, Mayo Clinic.
The Global Liver Institute is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. GLI’s vision is for liver health to take its place on the global public health agenda commensurate with its prevalence and impact. GLI’s mission is to improve the impact of the liver community by promoting innovation, collaboration, and scaling optimal approaches to eradicating liver diseases.