Care for your liver

Care for your liver

Liver disease is one that we hear of quite often, yet do not entirely understand. The function of the liver is to digest, absorb, and process food...

Liver disease is fatal, however, knowledge is powerful

Liver disease is one that we hear of quite often, yet do not entirely understand. The function of the liver is to digest, absorb, and process food along with the gallbladder, pancreas and intestines. When affected, a variety of conditions may be faced, the most common being Liver Cancer or Hepatic Cancer. This is the fifth most frequently diagnosed cancer globally. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the world.

Liver Cancer

They are malignant tumours that grow on the surface or inside the liver. There is no single cause of primary liver cancer and it has no obvious symptoms. Some symptoms that might help detect liver cancer are unexplained weight loss; persistent abdominal pain and sudden jaundice – these are also the cases when it is too late for surgery.

Several factors increase a person’s likelihood of developing liver cancer such as:

Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infections are an important factor for the development of liver cancer. Estimates show that about 5 to 10 per cent people with HBV or HCV will develop liver cancer. Viral hepatitis (VH) is liver inflammation or even failure; due to liver centered viruses like hepatitis virus A, B, C and E. Approximately 2-3 per cent of Hepatitis B and 15-20 per cent of Hepatitis C patients will develop liver cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis: Around 5-10 per cent of patients with cirrhosis develop liver cancer. It is a chronic liver disease and is the end result of all forms of liver damage. It is estimated that about two lakh people are diagnosed with end stage liver disease each year.

Obesity & Diabetes: These could increase the risk of liver cancer, especially in those who drink heavily. About thirty per cent of liver transplants today are due to Fatty Liver Disease.

Therefore, patients who have a liver disease are advised to undergo periodic screening tests as they may be at a high risk of developing liver cancer. These tests involve simple blood tests and an ultrasound scan to look for the actual cancer cells.

“Liver disease does not spare children, either,” says Dr Tom Cherian, HOD of liver surgery and transplantation for CARE Hospitals and professor of liver transplantation at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. He further adds, “Within 4-6 weeks of birth, when a liver disease is detected, a simple surgery has to be done in order to prevent transplantation later on.” He also mentions about the vaccine for Hepatitis B costing only Rs 60, and yet, not many know about it.

Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

This is a condition which can be controlled with dietary changes, exercise and proper care. Recent community-based studies from Asian countries including Japan, China, and India, indicate that the prevalence of Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is 45 per cent. According to Dr Tom Cherian, there has been a considerable increase in transplants for NAFLD. Provided precautions are taken at the right stage, the disease progressing to cirrhosis can be halted.

Organ Donation

There is however, ‘organ shortage’ in the country. Therefore, people are encouraged to choose to donate their organs. Dr Ramani, director of medical education Telangana, encourages, “This may sound harsh, but let us not allow our organs to be burned or buried when we die. Let us see that they are passed on because every organ is very useful.” We have heard also of the saying, “the loss of one life is the beginning of another”. And indeed it is, if one chooses to donate their organs.

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