Advice on how to prevent liver cancer
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There is one very specific symptom, however, that should alert you to see your GP. According to the NHS, the disease can cause a lump in just the right side of your stomach. This can then affect your digestion, leading to “pain at the top right side of your tummy”.
It can also cause your stomach to swell – regardless of how much food you have eaten.
Cancer Research UK says this could be due to two reasons.
Either “the liver gets bigger from the growing cancer, and causes swelling on the right side of your abdomen” or “the cancer (or cirrhosis) increases pressure in the liver causing blood to back up in the vessels (veins). This forces fluid out of the veins into the abdomen”.
Liver cancer is now the 18th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for two percent of all new cancer cases between 2016 and 2018.
There are around 6,200 new liver cancer cases in the UK every year, or 17 every day.
And incidence rates for liver cancer are highest in people aged 85 to 89.
But the NHS states that “anyone” can get primary liver cancer.
“It’s not always clear what causes it,” it says.
However, the service warned you might be more likely to get it if you:
- are over the age of 60 – it’s most common in people over 85
- are a man
- have certain medical conditions, such as hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, gallstones, diabetes, a parasite in the liver (liver flukes), and HIV
- have a brother, sister or parent who had primary liver cancer
Like many cancers a diagnosis can also be linked to your lifestyle.
Ways to reduce your risk of developing liver cancer are:
- try to lose weight if you are overweight
- wear protective clothes and masks if you work in a job where you’re exposed to harmful chemicals
- try to cut down on alcohol – avoid drinking more than 14 units a week
- try to quit smoking
Other symptoms include:
- your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice), you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual
- loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
- feeling tired or having no energy
- feeling generally unwell or having symptoms like flu
Digestion issues linked to the disease can also cause you to feel or be sick, experience pain in your right shoulder and to feel full very quickly when eating.
The NHS advises you contact your GP if you:
- have a lump in your tummy
- lose a noticeable amount of weight over the last six to 12 months without trying
- or have other symptoms of liver cancer that get worse or do not get better after two weeks
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