Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dumaguing: The journey to liver cancer

INDEED, there are many causes of liver cancer and we would like our readers to be informed with our hope and fervent prayer that awareness of this would raise our antennae of suspicion when it shows its presence.

After all, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Or as many of us elders know, forewarned is forearmed.

Of course, all of us by now know that the Hepatitis B virus tops the list of probable cause of liver cancer. Hepa B has a venereal, that is, sexual, transmission. Addicts are also easy prey due to sharing of needles in "mainlining"- injecting the drug into their blood vessel. Sad to say, even NSD or normal spontaneous delivery- vaginal delivery- facilitate the transfer of virus from the pregnant woman to her unsuspecting, innocent child. That is why a child born to a women diagnosed to have Hepa B. does not get only the routing Hepa vaccine given to all newborns but another Hepa B vaccine, usually administered by the pediatrician. This is when Caesarian or abdominal delivery is preferred to lessen possibility of viral transmission.

To make things worse, Hepa C virus was identified by microbiologists and virologists with the sad observation and later, conclusion that indeed, Hepa C virus infection also leads to malignancy of the liver. Mode of transmission is similar to that of Hepa B and the way the two viruses, Hepa B and C destroy the normal architecture of the liver; disrupting the integrity of the membrane of hepatocytes, causing massive disarray of the bile canaliculi as well as liver cells themselves which soon are replaced by fibrous tissues which lead to liver cirrhosis- atrophic, small, hard liver with irregular surfaces- a very fertile ground for development of liver cancer. If, it is a consolation at all, Hepa A infection has not been associated with liver cancer, thanks God, but then again, at least not yet.

Our students at med school mentioned the high incidence of infestations with liver flukes- very common among folks living in Southeast Asia- where poverty and lack of environmental sanitation and hygiene are sparing partners, so to speak. The parasite, known globally as Chlonorchis sinensis affect more the bile ducts and therefore may case cholangiocarcinoma. Be careful also of the peanuts that eat especially if the nut has been stored for a long time in moist place which favors the production of Aflatoxin, which when eaten- found also in grains like rice, wheat stored the s same way-may also cause liver cancer.

In the United States and most of developed European countries, alcoholism is the leading cause of liver cancer especially those who have gone into cirrhosis. The initial signs and symptoms would be abdominal pain, weight loss, large mass palpated at the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.

Later, jaundice or yellow discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes as well as the white portion-sclera- of the eyes. As the cirrhosis gets worse, spider angiomas- reddish lesions with a central core with little threadlike appendages like an octopus or a spider. The male soon notices enlargement of his breast-gynecomastia- and notice that his testicles are getting. A blood test for alpha feto protein, done in a person with signs and symptoms of cirrhosis would be like the proverbial last nail in the coffin, by then the person is already on his/her way to liver cancer.

February is not only heart's month. Isn’t it time, you love your liver as much too?

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