Friday, January 22, 2021

Liver Cancer (Oriental Medicine View)


General Information

– Increasing women patients

A source from government’s research conducted in August of 2016 stated that among the life-threatening cancers, liver cancer was rated the 2nd(16.4%) for the men, and the 5th(6.5%) for the women.

Another research reported that about 85% of liver cancer patients are those with hepatitis B or C, which means chronic liver diseases can easily be some foreboding symptoms of liver cancer. However, hepatitis virus itself is not a threatening factor; it just heighten the vulnerability to liver cancer.

– Who is in more critical situation?

The reason that hepatitis virus gets transformed to cancer is the mutation of cells. This virus can allegedly be made by spirituous or hemoglobinogenous liver diseases as well as some chemical material like aflatoxin; but its specific cause has not been identified yet. Men are reportedly more than 6 times susceptible than women to the disease. Although the rate soars after the age of fifty, age groups that are mostly exposed to the virus are far younger; so it is required to take regular check-ups.

Because the cases of approximately 86% are accompanied by hepatic cirrhosis, it’s hard to fully recover even after the medical operation, when it is in advanced phase.

The Causes

– Infected during pregnancy

It is 95% that babies are born with hepatitis when their mother is hepatitis B and not treated. Therefore, expecting mothers must be tested during pregnancy, and if proven there is, babies should get vaccinated within 24 hours of birth.

– Blood transfusion

Although the rate gets fairly lowered due to some tests before the blood transfusion, there are cases that several unknown mutants can be found.

– Sexual behavior

Virus can also be found in semen, vaginal discharge or saliva. When there is scar on the skin, it easily gets transmitted.

– Needles

When tattooing or having narcotics, it can also occur by the injection with tainted needles.

The Symptoms

Because liver can do its normal functions even when 70% of it gets paralyzed, it is almost impossible to detect any disorders on it without taking some check-ups in the hospital. In most cases, liver cancer is accompanied by some diseases like hepatocirrhosis or chronic hepatitis. Therefore, there usually appear some ordinary symptoms of liver diseases rather than those of liver cancer. When the symptoms found, the highly chances are liver cancer gets further advanced.

– It brings no pain.

Some of the main symptoms of liver cancer are appetite loss, general lassitude, abdominal distention or habitual vomiting that are easily found on other diseases.

However, in case of liver cancer, one can manage a rather normal and even healthy dietary condition without perceiving any disorder related to sudden weight loss. Patient suffering chronic liver disease should be checked up when the symptoms worsen or weight loss occurs.

– Lump in the pit of the stomach

Lump can be felt when the cancer occurs on the left side of liver. The abdomen of patient gets bumpy due to many lumps but feels almost no pain. The symptoms like anemia or abdominal pain for liver cancer patients occur when the cancer gets ruptured and bleeds inside the body. Some patients voice their pain with jaundice or ascites.


– Excision

The most problematic factor in the therapy of liver cancer is its recurrence. Although it is removed by excision after being detected in early stage, 25% reoccurs within three years; 50% within three years when its size is between 2~3cm. Followings are the reasons of its recurrence: (1) hepatic cirrhosis can already spread on other area of liver other than the area where operation is made; (2) being accompanied with another hepatic cirrhosis, the cancer cell can newly be generated. The excision shows reportedly the 30% of perfect cure rate. There are cases when excision cannot be made: (1) the patient is too weak(old); (2) ascites or jaundice.

– Hepatic artery embolization

Oxygen supply in liver is made through both hepatic portal vein and artery; that of liver cancer cell is made only through artery. Based on that, this operation suffocates the cells by closing the oxygen path, artery.

After regional anesthesia is made on femoral artery, 2mm of gelatin sponge and anticancer drug are simultaneously injected. However, it can’t be done when the cells spread up to hepatic portal vein, and it has shown only 10% of perfect cure rate. One week of recuperation period is required after operation.

– Percutaneous ethanol injection therapy

This is made when the size of cancer cell is less then 3cm and its number are under 3, or the patient is too weak to get an excision operation. Pure alcohol is injected directly on the area of cancer cell. Because the cancer cell can’t be detected with the naked eye, this should be done after careful and precise locating the area by ultrasonography. Therefore, when the cells are found on some major blood vessels, this operation is hard to be made.

– Radio-frequency coagulation therapy

Although this one is similar to the right above in resorting to injection, the difference is that radio-frequency is used for killing the cancer cells with excessive heat.

– Liver transplantation

When the hepatic cirrhosis is so severe that excision can’t be made, the liver transplantation is one of the alternatives. In theoretical perspective, this is the most desirous form.

But, there are some limits: (1) find the donor; (2) the size is less then 5cm, number is under 3; (3) make sure the cancer cells doesn’t spread through the blood vessel.


Like all other cases of cancer, regular and general check-ups are required. Especially, those with hepatitis B or C, 2~4 times a year, should take ultrasonography and AFP test.

In general, one should be careful with not getting fatty liver or hepatitis. Followings are some cautions at ordinary times.

– Heavy intake of alcoholic drink

It is too well-known a fact that alcoholic drink is lethal to liver. Alcohol itself is not the direct path to liver cancer: it causes a variety of liver diseases; the diseases evolves to hepatic cirrhosis; hepatic cirrhosis to cancer. People who habitually drink alcoholic beverage shows more than 6 times of probability of getting cancer than people who don’t. Be careful not to drink more than 2 shots a day, and after the day of heavy drinking, one should not drink at least for consecutive three days.

– The more you smoke, the higher the risk

People who smoke are 3 or 4 times riskier than who don’t. The worst case is to drink and smoke simultaneously. Smoking lessons the glycogen thereby weakens the liver cells.

– Do not share things like…

Things related to personal hygiene like toothbrush or razor should not be shared: hepatitis virus can easily be infected.

– Abuse of drugs

Liver controls the overall actions of drug. Therefore, abuse of drugs may deteriorate the conditions of liver. Especially, things like unauthorized foods and herbal or animal extracts should be avoided.

– Needles

Any needles that penetrate skin should be disinfected. Otherwise, they can also carry the virus into the body. Vaccination through preventive injection is mandatory.


Question: Are people with hepatitis eventually destined to get liver cancer?

Answer: No, but, fairly high chances are people who have hepatitis show greater tendencies than who has not. It is reported that patients with hepatitis B have 11% of probability of getting liver cancer in 10 years from its inception; 35%, in 20 years. More than 80% of liver cancer patients are allegedly having close relation with hepatitis virus.

Question: How about taking contraceptive pills?

Answer: Although there is a report that says longer than 10 years of taking contraceptives may heighten the probability of getting it, the actual risk is not that great. Rather than that, aflatoxin from mold is more crucial factor. Anyway, pills are not good for the liver.

Question: What is hepatic cirrhosis?

Answer: The repetition of death and revival of liver cells during the period of chronic hepatitis makes the liver hardened with leaving many scars on it. When the liver gets hardened, blood can’t be supplied to liver and is getting stagnated in spleen. There are many cases of cancer that are difficult to be treated due to the hepatic cirrhosis.

Question: Any limit on the quantity of alcohol intake?

Answer: The matter here is not ‘what kinds of alcohol you drink?’, but ‘how much alcohol it contains?’. Set the healthy and proper quantity of intake, and when exceeded, take at least 3 or 4 days of recuperation period.

Question: Should taking some rest only be the requirements for the people with hepatitis?

Answer: Not necessarily. Light excercise is good for health. However, the quantity of blood supplied to liver is different: when moving, 20% and when resting, 80%.

Wang Wei
Wang Wei is a holistic health practitioner in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

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