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October 12, 2021

Every year in America 24,500 men and 10,000 women suffer from liver cancer, according to the CDC (CDC). October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month, where the spotlight is put on those suffering from this disease and showing how medical professionals are working toward a cure.

The liver is located on the upper right-hand side of the body behind the ribs. The liver works to remove waste products and worn-out cells, filter and process chemicals from food and alcohol, and produce bile, the acidic liquid that helps to digest fats and eliminate waste products (CDC).

In early stages, those fighting the disease may not even know it is affecting them. Symptoms may not be felt or noticed, but as the cancer grows, symptoms may begin the become noticeable. The CDC lists the below symptoms of liver cancer but notes that these symptoms can also be attributed to other common diseases (CDC).

  • Discomfort in upper abdomen on right side
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Hard lump on right side just below the bottom of the rib cage
  • Pain near right shoulder blade or back
  • Jaundice (Yellowing of skin and whites of eyes)
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Nausea and tiring
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss for no known reason

According to 2018 CDC data, this Hispanic population saw 5,501 new cases of liver cancer in the United States, the highest among all ethnic groups. African-Americans saw a rise of 9.8 cases per 100,000 people, while Caucasians saw 7.8 cases.  Hispanic males saw the highest increase in cases among males and females of all ethnic groups, with 19.4 cases per 100,000 people (CDC).

Many risk factors for liver cancer are avoidable through moderation and exercise. Common symptoms include obesity, excessive alcohol consumption (including scarring of the liver through excessive use named cirrhosis), smoking cigarettes, diabetes, having hemochromatosis (the body storing too much iron), and eating foods with aflatoxin (a fungus found on grains and nuts that have not been stored properly).

The best way to avoid these risk factors is through a healthy diet and exercise. This will limit consumption of alcohol and reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes. The CDC also highly recommends getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B if you are not already, and getting tested for Hepatitis C. If your test returns positive, seek immediate medical care.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms similar to those of liver cancer, talk with your doctor. To learn more about the CDC study and statistics regarding liver cancer click here.