Healthy Living

Is Cirrhosis of the Liver a form of Cancer?

Is Cirrhosis of the Liver a form of Cancer?

Key Takeaways

  • Liver Cirrhosis is a slowly progressing disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, eventually preventing the liver from functioning properly.
  • The leading cause of liver cancer is cirrhosis due to either hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or alcohol.
  • Liver cirrhosis can be prevented by limiting alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Liver cancer can be avoided by avoiding trigger factors of cirrhosis such as binge drinking.

The liver is a vital and also, the largest organ in the human body. Its large size is a clear indication of the many roles it plays in the human body.

Some of its functions include:

  • Getting rid of toxic and harmful substances from the bloodstream. These substances may include alcohol and drugs.
  • It produces bile which is helpful in the digestion of food.
  • It regulates the amount of sugar present in blood.
  • Blood proteins useful in clotting, defense and oxygen transportation are produced by the liver.
  • When nutrients are in excess, the liver stores some of them and returns the others into the bloodstream.

Liver cirrhosis is a condition of the liver associated with the formation of scars on the liver as a result of continuous damage that is experienced by the liver for a long time. Healthy tissues of the liver disappear and are replaced by scars. These scars cause proper functioning of the liver to be hindered.

Scars on the liver tissue restricts flow of the blood and as a result, the processing of nutrients, toxins that are produced naturally, hormones and drugs is slowed down. Other productions made by the liver are also made slow such as production of protein production.

The formation of these scars on the liver cannot be reversed and can progress to situations where the liver stops functioning completely, which is failure of the liver.

If liver failure occurs, it may eventually lead to death of the patient. Several years are required for liver cirrhosis to reach the climax of fatality. Treatment may be used to curb this by slowing down progress of the disease.

Causes of Liver Cirrhosis

Alcohol is a common cause of cirrhosis in many people. Some other causes are:

  1. Blockage of ducts in the liver such as the bile duct. This duct carries bile from the liver where it is formed to the intestines where it is used for digestion of fats.
  2. Liver with lots of fats. This is common in diabetic and obese people.
  3. Some types of hepatitis such as Hepatitis B, C and D though Hepatitis D is a very rare case.

Some inherited diseases may also result into liver cirrhosis. Such diseases include the following:

  • Condition where iron in absorbed in excess and deposited in the liver together with Wilson’s disease which constitutes abnormal liver functioning.
  • Absence of some type of enzyme usually present in the liver. This is also known as deficiency of Alpha 1 antitrypsin.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Condition where the body is not able to process glucose in order to produce energy necessary in the body.

Causes of Liver Cancer

Related to the causes of cirrhosis of the liver is causes of liver cancer. It is highly imprecise to note what causes most liver cancer cases. The cause may be known in only a few limited cases.

  • Hepatitis virus that chronically infects some individuals just as in liver cirrhosis case may lead to cancer of the liver.
  • A series of risk factors can also lead to cancer of the liver. It is important to note that most of these risk factors, are also common risk factors to cirrhosis of the liver implying a form of relationship between liver cancer and liver cirrhosis.
  • Cirrhosis is in itself a risk to causing liver cancer to a patient. This is majorly due to the scar formation associated with cirrhosis.
  • People experiencing disorders in blood sugar level have a higher risk of liver cancer infection.
  • Just as in cirrhosis, binge intake of alcohol exposes the user involved to risk of being infected with liver cancer. This is usually in the cases where alcohol consumption is habitual and occurs for a long period of time.
  • Inherited diseases of the liver such as Wilson’s disease and Hemochromatosis are a risk factor to liver cancer.
  • Accumulation of fat in the liver.
  • Exposure to some poisons that are associated with molds growing on poorly stored food. These poisons may be referred to as Aflatoxins and they contaminate some crops ending up in food product made from the crop.

Not all people who take in large amounts of alcohol experience liver cirrhosis. But most of these people harm their liver in one way or another. The ones at higher risk of cancer are children and habitual heavy drinkers of alcohol.

Some of the signs and symptoms in cirrhosis patients are also experienced in cancer patients.

Signs of Liver Cancer

  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of the abdominal region. This may be accompanied by pain in the upper parts.
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Significant loss of weight without necessarily the effort
  • Exhaustion and experiencing weakness of the body
  • Jaundice which results in the skin of the patient to appear yellow in color. White part of the eye may also suffer similar ill effects.
  • The stool of the patient appears whitish in color.

 These signs only appear in the advanced stages of primary liver cancer so their absence does not mean one is liver cancer free.

Signs of Liver Cirrhosis

Notable signs of liver cirrhosis are basically the same as for liver cancer. Additional ones may include the following;

  • Loss of hair
  • Shivering and fever
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Itchy skin
  • Blood capillaries visible on the skin, on the upper body

Is Cirrhosis Really A Form of Liver Cancer?

The internal scarring of the liver usually occurs when the liver experiences damage over a long period of time. These cells which are damaged may die as a result of chronic liver disease and to replace the missing dead cells, fibrous scar tissues are deposited.

Extensive damage to normal liver cells may result in the cells becoming cancer cells. Cirrhosis increases cancer risk as changes in DNA occur and causes the liver cells to reproduce to counteract damage caused by cirrhosis.

Cancer causing changes in the DNA occur after extensive damage to the lungs. When the cells of the liver are damaged, they are quickly replaced numerous times.

This leads to mutations in the liver cell’s DNA. These mutations may accumulate over a period of time, which has a negative effect in that liver cells eventually lose control of growth ability on their own. Uncontrollable growth occurs in the cells which eventually develops cancer. This is basically how liver cirrhosis is related to cancer of the liver.

The Bottom Line

Victims of liver cirrhosis should try to keep their cirrhosis in check so as to minimize the risks of getting liver cancer. They should discuss any questions or uncertainties they may have with their doctors.