May 21, 2024
World Liver Day, observed annually on April 19th, serves as a global platform to raise awareness about liver health and the challenges posed by liver diseases, including liver cancer. I will try and bring the spotlight on liver cancer and its impact, prevention strategies, and advancements in treatment on World Liver Day 2024.
Liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is a type of cancer that originates in the liver cells.It is amongst the most common and deadliest forms of cancer worldwide, with rising incidence rates in many regions. Liver cancer often develops in individuals with underlying liver conditions, such as chronic hepatitis B or C infection or cirrhosis due to any cause. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and alcohol-related liver disease are becoming important causes of liver cancer. Other risk factors contribute to the development of liver cancer like obesity, diabetes, exposure to aflatoxins (toxins produced by certain fungi), and genetic factors. Adopting healthy lifestyle practices, such as maintaining a balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, staying physically active, and receiving vaccinations against hepatitis B, can help reduce the risk of liver cancer.

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Early detection plays a crucial role in improving outcomes for individuals with liver cancer. Regular screenings, including liver function tests, imaging studies (such as ultrasound, CT scans or MRI), and tumor marker tests (such as alpha-fetoprotein) enable doctors to detect liver cancer at an early stage when treatment options are more effective. Awareness of symptoms such as abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, and changes in appetite or fatigue is also essential for timely diagnosis.
The landscape of liver cancer treatment has witnessed significant advancements in recent years, offering new hope to patients. Genomic Sequencing of tissue or liquid biopsy through just a blood sample is becoming increasingly important with almost 25% liver cancers having some driver mutation. Treatment approaches for liver cancer may include surgery in early stages and liver transplantation, ablation therapies (such as radiofrequency or microwave ablation), trans-arterial chemoembolization (TACE), targeted therapies (such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors which are oral drugs), immunotherapy, and focussed radiation therapy. Multidisciplinary care teams comprising oncologists, heatologists, surgeons, radiologists, and other specialists collaborate to tailor treatment plans based on each patient’s unique situation.
On World Liver Day 2024, we celebrate the ongoing research and innovations driving progress in liver cancer management. Emerging therapies, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and combination treatments, hold promise in improving survival rates and quality of life for patients with advanced liver cancer. Clinical trials investigating novel treatment modalities, precision medicine approaches and immunotherapeutic strategies continue to expand the treatment armamentarium for liver cancer.
World Liver Day serves as a reminder of the importance of liver health education, prevention efforts, early detection initiatives, and access to quality care for individuals affected by liver cancer. Public awareness campaigns, advocacy efforts, community outreach programs, and healthcare professionals training initiatives play a crucial role in addressing the challenges posed by liver diseases and reducing the burden of liver cancer globally.
For this endeavour, let us unite in our commitment to advancing liver health, promoting liver cancer awareness, and supporting individuals and families affected by liver diseases. By fostering collaboration among stakeholders, advocating for preventive measures, investing in research, and embracing innovative treatments, we can strive towards a future where liver cancer is preventable, detectable at an early stage, and effectively managed, leading to better outcomes and improved quality of life for all.
(Author: Dr. Niti Krishna Raizada, Senior Director, Medical Oncology & Hemato-Oncology, Fortis Hospitals, Richmond Road, Bangalore)


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