Liver and Intrahepatic bile duct cancer

The types of cancer which affect organs which interact closely with other organs are of particular concern because of their ability to spread the cancer to other parts of the body.  Such is the case with liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer.  This type of cancer is one of the most common throughout the world but not in the US.  But it is still one of the top 10 deadliest cancers in the US with 79,773 lives lost due to the illness from 2003 through 2007.  Despite advances in treatment, each year almost 20,000 people die from the disease in the US. New cases and deaths from liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer in the United States in 2012 have been estimated 28,720 and 20,550 successively.

The most common type of liver cancer is called hepatocellular carcinoma.  It is more prevalent in men and usually occurs in people over the age of 50.  This type of liver cancer differs from metastatic liver cancer which starts in another part of the body such as the breast or colon and spreads to the liver.  And sometimes liver cancer may be caused by scarring of the liver.  This is called cirrhosis and can be caused by alcohol abuse; autoimmune deficiency; hepatitis infection; chronic inflammation of the liver; and excess iron in the body.

Common symptoms of the disease can include abdominal pain or discomfort; a tendency to bruise or bleed easily; an enlarged abdomen; or yellow skin or eyes.

Typical diagnostic tests which may be performed begin with a physical exam.  Other tests might include an abdominal CT scan; abdominal ultrasound; liver biopsy to test the tissue for the presence of cancer cells; liver function tests; liver MRI; among others.

The treatment often depends on the type and severity of the disease.  If the disease is diagnosed early enough, aggressive surgery or a liver transplant may be successful in treating any small or slow growing tumors.  Unfortunately few patients realize they have the disease until it is much further along.  Chemotherapy may be used with the chemicals introduced straight into the liver. And radiation therapy to treat the tumors in localized areas can help as well.  A new drug called Nexavar has been shown to block tumor growth in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.

Intrahepatic Bile duct cancer originates in one of the bile ducts which carry bile from the liver to the small intestine.  This type of cancer is typically slow growing and does not tend to spread easily.  However it is also not easily identified in the early stages.

This disease tends to affect both men and women and is more common in people over 65.  The risk factors associated with this disease include the presence of bile duct cysts; chronic biliary irritation; a history of infection from a parasitic worm; or ulcerative colitis.

This type of cancer is rare and occurs only in 2 out of every 100,000 people.  The typical symptoms of this disease can include chills; fever; general itching over the body; a loss of appetite; unexplained weight loss; and the presence of jaundice.

The types of diagnostic tests used are similar to those used when liver cancer is suspected.

The primary goal of treatment for this disease is to remove or reduce the tumor and its associated blockage of the bile duct.  This is done through surgery whenever possible.  If the tumor is small enough and localized, the removal can result in a cure.  If it is more widespread than other measures need apply.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer redeveloping.  And radiation therapy has shown benefit as well.

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