First, know that liver cancer rates are increasing
Liver cancer is fairly rare, but since 1990, its relative risk has doubled, rising from 3.5 to 6.5 per 100,000, says Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. Liver cancer symptoms don’t usually show until the cancer has reached advanced stages, so regular screenings could be key to survival rates. “If we have somebody with regular screenings and it looks like cancer, we can cure them, versus if they have an advanced disease that has spread beyond the liver,” says Ghassan Abou-Alfa, MD, medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “We prefer not to see patients with symptoms.” Read on for four risk factors and four symptoms that could clue you in to signs of liver damage. Avoid these ways that you are secretly hurting your liver.
You’ve had hepatitis C
Certain characteristics may put you at risk for liver cancer. Those with a history of the virus hepatitis C can develop related liver cancer 10 years after their diagnosis, Dr. Abou-Alfa says. The CDC recommends anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for the virus. “Most Americans in that age group haven’t been screened,” Dr. Brawley says. “There is treatment that can cure hepatitis C and therefore prevent liver cancer.” You might have this “silent” liver disease and not even know it.