How technology can aid early detection of fatal liver cancer

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS): While detection of cancers of the liver early is key for better treatment and survival, there are generally no signs in the initial phase and hence are generally identified late. Technology can help and aid in early screening of the disease as well make the treatment faster, said doctors on Monday.

As per Globocan 2020 data, liver cancer ranks 10th among the Indian population with an incidence of 34,723 cases. Being one of the most fatal cancers, it amounted to a mortality of 33,793 cases over the year.

For people with liver cancer without metastasis, the five-year survival rate is about 31 per cent which drops dramatically to 11 per cent once the disease starts to spread regionally to nearby organs. People with distant metastasis have a five-year survival rate of 3 per cent.

"Early detection is crucial in curbing the impact of liver cancer. As the disease often progresses silently without obvious symptoms in its early stages, diagnosis at an advanced, less treatable phase is common," Dr Adarsh Hegde, Consultant Radiation Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Hubballi told IANS.

Regular screening and the use of advanced imaging techniques, such as MRI and CT scans, can help detect liver cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages.

"Moreover, emerging biomarker tests and genetic profiling hold promise in identifying those at higher risk, enabling proactive monitoring and intervention,” Hegde said.

Liver cancers mainly occur due to mutations in DNA of cells which sometimes may occur on its own, without any risk factors. But mostly they are associated with some common risk factors such as chronic hepatitis B or C infection; cirrhosis due to any cause; excessive alcohol consumption; chronic inherited liver diseases like hemochromatosis or wilson disease; diabetes; non alcoholic fatty liver disease; exposure to toxins like aflatoxins.

According to Dr Vivek Mangla - Senior Director, Gastrointestinal and Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgical Oncology, Max Hospital, Vaishali, “some symptoms that should make one seek help early are unintentional weight loss; decreased appetite; upper abdominal pain; yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice); white, chalky stools; nausea and vomiting, general weakness and fatigue; and abdominal swelling”.

The doctors advised to stop alcohol consumption; increase daily physical activity and maintain healthy weight; take vaccination against hepatitis B and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

While there are no vaccines available for hepatitis C, certain lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of infection such as avoiding unprotected sex, minimising sexual partners and knowing the history of partners; avoiding IV drug abuse and sharing of needles; safe clean shops for getting tattoos/piercings.

If diagnosed with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, one must seek immediate treatment for the same and continue with the same with regular follow up.

Dr Kishore GSB, Liver Transplant Surgeon, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru said that patients who have known chronic liver disease should have regular screening for HCC with ultrasound of abdomen/contrast enhanced CT/MRI and alpha fetoprotein level in blood.

“Diabetics with fatty liver should also be screened for hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type, with ultrasonography. With early detection the tumour is more likely to be amenable for curative treatments such as resection and liver transplant,” he told IANS.

Options for treatment include surgery, removal of a part of liver which has isolated cancer, liver transplantation, among others

Dr Adarsh said technology has also significantly transformed the treatment landscape.

“Minimally invasive procedures, like radiofrequency ablation and trans arterial chemoembolisation are now used to target and destroy tumours with reduced impact on healthy tissue. Surgical interventions have become more precise, aided by robotic assistance and laparoscopic techniques. Additionally, advancements in chemotherapy and targeted therapies, guided by genetic profiling, offer more effective and personalised treatment options,” he told IANS.



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