Yellow skin, yellow eyes: do I have liver cancer?

Primary liver cancer is rare, but early diagnosis is important

liver cancer

Yellowing of the skin and eyes, along with weight loss, itchy skin and feeling tired are some of the symptoms of liver cancer.

 

As scary as these symptoms might be, many of the signs and symptoms of liver cancer can also be caused by other conditions, including other liver problems or even a vitamin overdose. None-the-less, yellowing of the skin and eyes, along with weight loss, itchy skin and feeling tired are some of the symptoms of liver cancer. By the time these symptoms occur, the disease may have already spread. That’s why it is so important to see your doctor right away if you have these symptoms, so the cause can be found and treated. Continue reading

Understanding liver cancer and liver metastases

Former President Jimmy Carter recently was diagnosed with advanced cancer after having liver surgery.

Theodore Welling III, M.D., Neehar Parikh, M.D., and Tracy Licari, PA-C, discuss a patient in the U-M Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic.

Theodore Welling III, M.D., Neehar Parikh, M.D., and Tracy Licari, PA-C, discuss a patient in the U-M Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic.

While we don’t know the origin or extent of his cancer, it’s possible that the cancer had spread to his liver from another part of the body. We sat down with the directors of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Liver Tumor Program, Neehar Parikh, M.D., medical director, and Theodore Welling III, M.D., surgical director, to learn more about liver cancer and liver metastases.

What does it mean when cancer is found in the liver but it’s not liver cancer? What’s the difference?
It means that the cancer is a secondary (not primary) liver cancer which is the result of spread from Continue reading

Baby boomers targeted for Hepatitis C testing

Recently approved drugs make HepC treatment simple and more effective

The diagnosis was a surprise for Claudia Dionne: testing during her yearly check-up revealed hepatitis C. The liver-damaging virus was not causing symptoms but for the 4 million people in the United States with hepatitis C it can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and is the most common reason people need a liver transplant.

But research is changing what comes next for those who learn their diagnosis early. New drugs – Victrelis, Incivek, Harvoni, Olysio and Sovaldi — make treatment easier and more effective and in November, combination treatment of Sovaldi and Olysio was approved. Interferon-free oral combination therapy is available for almost all types of hepatitis C infection.

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Screening may boost liver cancer survival rates

liver cancer screeningScreening isn’t necessarily effective for all cancers, but primary liver cancer is one type of cancer where those at high risk, such as persons with hepatitis B or C or cirrhosis, may benefit from screening (the use of tests to look for the presence of disease before symptoms appear). Primary liver cancer, also known as hepatoma or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of liver cancer in adults according to the American Cancer Society.

Screening for HCC can begin as young as 40 and involves measuring alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood levels and Continue reading

Liver transplant offers new option for rare cancer

Christopher Sonnenday, M.D., M.H.S.

Robert “Buzz” Gehle thought the itchy rash he was experiencing was a recurrence of an earlier case of shingles. But when his doctor saw he was also jaundiced, he immediately knew there was a problem with Gehle’s liver.

Gehle was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma – cancer in the bile duct – in October 2009, and it soon became clear that traditional surgery would not be an option.

Instead, doctors at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center started Gehle on chemotherapy and radiation and ran him through a series of tests to determine if the 65-year-old was otherwise healthy enough for a possible new treatment – liver transplant.

Liver transplantation is often used for cancer that occurs within the liver. But U-M is one of a small number of centers around the country to offer a transplant for cancer of the bile duct, a long tube-like structure that connects the liver to the intestines.

Bile duct cancer can be extremely difficult to remove surgically, and even when surgery is an option, the cancer frequently comes back.

“This is a tumor we have always struggled with,” says Christopher Sonnenday, M.D., M.H.S., assistant professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School. Sonnenday, a transplant surgeon, is part of the Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Historically, transplant has not been thought to be a great treatment for cancer. What we’ve learned in recent years is that if you select patients very carefully and find the right patients, those patients can potentially be helped by transplant,” Sonnenday says. Continue reading