Liver – one of the most important internal organs of human body, plays a significant role in maintaining your health conditions.
The main functions of a liver include regulating levels of chemicals in the blood, making bile to digest fats, making cholesterol, blood plasma proteins, and controlling immune factors.
A patient with liver cancer has to experience different levels of pain through 6 stages in the development of liver cancer in human body.
Stage 1: Normal liver
A normal liver weighs 1.4 to 1.5 kg in men and 1.2 to 1.4 kg in women.
Basically, the liver is divided into 2 lobes in right and left sides. In the normal liver, the right lobe is larger than the left one and occupies the right hypochondrium. The flatter left lobe is located in the epigastrium and left hypochondrium.
Stage 2: Steatosis
It is normal that our liver contains a certain amount of fat, but the number of fat in the liver must not exceed 5-10% the liver’s area.
Steatosis in the liver is a medical condition which is caused by the formation of a significant number of fat surrounding the liver cells. In other words, fatty liver could make a great chance for developing steatosis in the liver.
And steatosis can be short-term or long-term period according to physical condition of the patient. But if steatosis lasts for so long, it will lead to other serious health problems, even liver cancer.
Excessive alcohol consumption or obesity status are the main causes of steatosis.
Steatosis of liver will not cause any pain for the patient, therefore, it is not easy to detect it.
When steatosis shows its signals. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Always feel tired, even exhausted
- Being stuck in confusion frequently
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Feeling hurt in upper belly
- Having difficulties in concentration
Stage 3: Steatohepatitis
Steatohepatitis is a fatty liver disease, caused by steatosis-inflammation of the liver with fat accumulation in liver.
There are two types of steatohepatitis: alcoholic steatohepatitis (caused by frequent consumption of alcohol) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
With NASH – a more popular one, inflammation is caused by fat, leading to liver cells damage, therefore the liver does not work as well as it should.
NASH is similar to the kind of long-term and heavy drinking liver disease, especially, NASH occurs in people who do not abuse alcohol. It can get worse and cause scarring of the liver, leading to cirrhosis.
NASH probably stems from environmental conditions or hereditary factors. Some reasons that put people at risk for NASH:
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol and high triglycerides
- Metabolic syndrome
People may not detect NASH at its early stages because most people feel fine during that time. However, people may start to have some symptoms for NASH development and worse liver damage such as:
- Weight loss for no reason
- General weakness
- An ache in the upper right part of your belly
Stage 4: Fibrosis
Fibrosis of liver is a medical condition with the formation of an abnormally large amount of scar tissue in the liver.
Each time liver is damaged by different reasons such as excessive alcohol consumption or other causes, it tries to heal itself. And in repairing process, scar tissue-which is not functional forms and replaces the liver cells.
Scar tissue can limit the amount of blood supplying for liver cells by interfering with the blood flow. Liver cells die due to the lack of blood and lead to the formation of more scar tissue.
Fibrosis occurs when the liver attempts to repair and replace damaged cells.
It develops when the liver is repeatedly or constantly damaged (as occurs in chronic hepatitis). A blockage in the bile ducts can lead to the quicker growth of fibrosis.
If fibrosis is exactly identified in time, it will be reserved. However, if the liver keeps being damage during time, fibrosis will become a long-term disease.
With large amount of scar tissue formed throughout the liver, the internal structure of liver will be destroyed gradually, the ability to regenerate itself and to perform its functions will be limited.
This will lead to another dangerous stage of liver cancer called cirrhosis.
Popular causes for fibrosis of liver include infection of viral hepatitis C, and NASH (Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). Fibrosis can also form from various disorders and drugs, even alcohol abuse.
Fibrosis itself does not cause symptoms. Symptoms may result from the disorder causing fibrosis:
- Appetite loss
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Fluid buildup in the legs or stomach
- Jaundice (yellow appears on the skin or eyes)
- Unexplained weight loss
Stage 5: Cirrhosis
Fibrosis is the first process of liver scarring and it will turn into liver cirrhosis if most of the liver becomes scarred.
Cirrhosis of liver is the result of different forms of liver diseases and medical conditions, like hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.
In cirrhosis processes, scar tissue forms constantly, making it difficult for the liver to perform its functions. Severe cirrhosis is super dangerous and even life-threatening.
There are tons of causes for liver cirrhosis. Some of them include:
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis B, C&D)
- Iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Wilson’s disease
- Biliary atresia
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
- Galactosemia or glycogen storage disease
- Alagille syndrome
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Infection such as syphilis or brucellosis
- Medications including methotrexate or isoniazid
Cirrhosis does not show any signs or symptoms until liver damage is serious. When the symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Easily bleeding or bruising
- Spider-like blood vessels on skin
- Swelling in legs, feet of ankles
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
- Jaundice (yellow appears on skin or eyes)
- Itchy skin
- Redness in palms of the hands
- Fluid accumulation in abdomen
- For women, absent or loss of periods not related to menopause
- For men, loss of sex drive, breast enlargement or testicular atrophy
Stage 6: Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer in patients with underlying chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, also is the the third leading cause of cancer deaths over the world with over 500,000 people affected.
HCC destroy all main liver’s functions, resulting in the liver dying day by day.
HCC of liver is mainly formed from the infection of hepatitis B or hepatitis C, which causes scarring in the liver. It is more popular in people who have excessive alcohol consumption or have a fatty liver.
The patient at this stage has all the mentioned symptoms of the previous stages.
When you need to see a doctor?
Make an appointment with your doctor or come to the medical center if you experience any abnormal signs or symptoms to have a solution or treatment in time!