When you suspect that your patient has liver cancer

by Hannah Leatherbury, Education Contributor

You recently saw a patient with one or more of the following symptoms:
•    A hard lump or swelling on the right side of the abdomen, just below the ribs
•     Pain or discomfort on the upper right side of the abdomen by the right shoulder blade
•     Jaundice
•    Nausea and/or loss of appetite
•    Unexplained weight loss
•    Fatigue
•    Swollen abdomen, bleeding – symptoms of cirrhosis

While a relatively limited portion of the United States population (approximately 22,000 people per year) are diagnosed with primary liver cancer, it is the most common cancer diagnosis in men worldwide. Particular populations at risk include people over age 60, men, Asians, Latinos and veterans who served internationally. Additional risks include current presence of cirrhosis, viral infections including Hepatitis B and/or C, as well as a family history of liver cancer.

It’s important to know that the survival rates for those diagnosed with liver cancer are tough to swallow — most diagnoses of liver cancer do not occur until the later stages of the disease and treatment options at these stages are limited. Consider recommending your patient to either a gastroenterologist and/or a hepatologist to rule out the possibility of liver cancer. If your patient is diagnosed with primary liver cancer, Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Liver Cancer is a free downloadable resource that provides your patient with information about what diagnostic tests should have been made to arrive at the diagnosis, how the types and stages of liver cancer are defined, and what treatments are currently available.

About Ivy Ahmed

Ivy Ahmed is the Vice President of Education and Outreach at the Cancer Support Community. In this position she oversees the development, promotion and implementation of national CSC education programs. She also oversees the development of online educational materials and national professional outreach related to education programs. Ivy has over 15 years in public health and has worked in both the private and public sectors promoting cancer education. She served as a health educator and case manager with the District of Columbia’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and as the health communications manager with Lockheed Martin on a contract to support to the NCI’s Cancer Information Service. Ivy holds two degrees from the George Washington University, a Bachelor in Literature and a Master of Public Health.

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