Metastatic liver cancer is cancer which has broadened to the liver from elsewhere in the body. Cancerous cells that have spread past the original area of cancer and established themselves at a outlying site are called Metastases. Such cancer cells are spread through lymph and blood vessels.
Metastatic liver cancer most frequently starts off in the large intestine, lungs, pancreas, breast, or stomach, while primary liver cancer initiates in the cells of the liver itself. In the United States, most cancer found in the liver spread is of the metastatic form. These are not called liver cancer, but teremd after the organ in which it began; for example, metastatic breast cancer in cancer that starts in the breast and spreads to the liver.
Initial symptoms usually include poor appetite and weight loss, and a fever may occur. General weakness and fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain are also telltale signs. Characteristically, the liver is enlarged and can be tender; frequently the liver is lumpy feeling also. Sometimes the spleen may be enlarged, particularly if the cancer began in the pancreas. In the beginning, the patient has mild to no sign of jaundice, but later, the abdomen may become distended with fluid. In the weeks leading up to mortality, jaundice increasingly gets worse. He or she may become confused and drowsy due to accumulation of toxins in the brain.
Diagnosis is difficult in early stages of the disease. In the late stages, it is relatively simple. Cancer tumors cause damage to the liver, resulting in irregular liver test results. Ultrasound, CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging of the liver can expose the cancer, but cannot always reveal smaller tumors or differentiate tumors from cirrhosis or other conditions. Liver biopsy will provide the final diagnosis, and is performed if other tests are positive.
Chemotherapy may be deployed to shrink the tumor and prolong life for the short term, but do not cure the cancer. These drugs are able to be injected into the liver’s main artery, in order to supply high concentrations of chemotherapy precisely to the cancerous cells in the liver. Sometimes applying radiation therapy to the liver can alleviate severe pain, but does not prolong the life of the patient.
Some emerging treatments for metastatic liver cancer are being researched.
These include cryosurgery, in which the tumor and surrounding area is frozen temporarily, in an attempt to kill the cancerous cells, thermal ablation of cancerous cells by laser or radio frequency, and injection of alcohol into the tumors. These treatments are only available as part of clinical trials, however, if your physician feels you may benefit from them, you may be able to take part in the trial and receive treatment.