The liver is one of the major organs in the body. It is involved in many processes of the body to keep a person healthy. The liver is made up of many different cell types but the two main ones are liver cells (hepatocytes) and cells lining the bile ducts (cholangiocytes). The cells in the liver can undergo changes to form cancer. Most primary liver cancers begin in the hepatocytes. Liver cancer is the 4th most common cancer affecting men in Singapore.

Risk factors of liver cancer

  • A family history of liver cancer.
  • Presence of other liver diseases such as:
    • Liver cirrhosis
    • Hepatitis B
    • Hepatitis C
  • Regular or frequent consumption of alcohol.
    • Even relatively small amounts can be harmful.
    • If taken frequently, especially for females.
  • Frequent exposure to chemicals such as nitrites, hydrocarbons, solvents, vinyl chloride which are known cancer-causing agents.
  • Frequent consumption of spoilt/mouldy nuts.
    • Mouldy nuts contain aflatoxins which are cancer-causing agents produced by a fungus.

Signs and symptoms of liver cancer

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Generalised tiredness
  • Swelling of the abdominal area
  • Jaundice (yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Persistent or swinging fever

These signs usually do not show up until the later stages. These symptoms may be caused by a number of problems and may not indicate the presence of cancer, but if any of the above symptoms persists or is bothering you, do consult your doctor.

Liver cancer screening and treatment

Routine liver cancer screening is usually performed on patients who have chronic liver disease, especially hepatitis B patients.

The treatment for liver cancer is mainly by surgery. Where this is not possible, other interventions like ablation therapy (RFA) and localised chemotherapy (TACE) are used.

In advanced liver cancer, when local therapy is not an option, treatment with drugs like sorafenib is usually used.

Liver transplantation may be considered in selected cases where the size of the tumour is not massive but surgery is not feasible due to the patient's limited liver reserve.

Specialist Services

Specialist services are available at the following institutions:

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