FEBRUARY is heart month. Ok fine, no doubt about it. However, with all those flowers being passed from one amorous hand to the nose of an enamored lady, filling the spring air with the heady fragrance of roses, with some fingers pricked by its thorns in the frantic effort to be the first gentleman to give them to his lady love, indeed, the heart is the cynosure of attention and focus. Thus, at the risk of being called "killjoy" or spoilsport, dear readers and friends, please allow your columnist to delve into the realm of another exciting, and as important organ- our liver.

Let's go to the basics by saying that the liver is the largest internal organ- so that should once and for all clarify the doubt as to what is the largest organ with the skin large and widespread as it is obviously NOT internal. The liver is underneath the right lung therefore, it is on the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, with the stomach immediately to its left. The right lobe comprises 5/6 of its entire size, huge that it pushes the right kidney lower than the left kidney. At any given time,

the liver has 1500 ml of the total amount of blood in the adult human body (5000 ml) making the liver a very vascular- blood-filled organ- 1100 ml thru the portal vein carrying the absorbed nutrients from our digestive system, 400 ml thru the hepatic artery carrying oxygen . A very important role of the liver is to detoxify potentially harmful and toxic substances thru a process called biologic transformation, into less or even non-toxic metabolites. And don’t forget that the liver is a virtual factory- producing all sorts of vital substances like clotting proteins, transport agents, bile to help absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.

January was Liver cancer awareness month. Indeed, reality bites. Cancer registry lists liver cancer as the second most common cause of cancer worldwide. The World Health Organization, working closely with the International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that liver cancer can potentially kill an average of 40 Filipinos per day by the year 2030. There are two types of liver cancer; Hepatocellular carcinoma, known also by its short name hepatoma is a malignancy that originates from the liver cells or hepatocytes although a sarcoma type would originate from its connective tissue. The other type would be cancers coming from distant organs- metastatic types- from the lungs colon or breast.

Most primary liver cancers- another way of calling hepatocellular carcinoma- are caused by infection from a virus called hepatitis B, a DNA containing virus, which from our current statistics, affect one in seven Filipino adults and therefore is considered as a major public health problem. Doctors and epidemiologists are one in saying that it is very difficult to arrive at an early definitive diagnosis because most infected persons appear healthy and without problematic symptoms at first. The typical signs and symptoms of weight loss, yellowish discoloration of the skin (ictericia) dark colored urine appear rather late in the course of the disease, when sad to note, the cancer is beyond cure.