Dr. Akhil Jain is a senior medical oncologist and an Onco.com panel expert. He did his postdoctorate at The Gujarat Cancer and Research Institute BJ Medical College, fetching a DM Super-specialty degree in Medical Oncology. We are pleased to present his write-up about the Importance of Liver and the Connection between Chronic Liver Hepatitis and Liver Cancer, specifically, can chronic hepatitis cause hepatocellular carcinoma?

Human body is an organisation of different organs that work in absolute coordination  to give best health. The liver is one of these organs that is in continuous action to fulfill this aim.

Liver performs many of the important functions in the body. Synthetic and metabolic are its main functions. It makes and processes essential nutrients and chemicals. Proteins, blood clotters, cholesterol, triglycerides, bile, and glycogen are its important synthetic materials. These are produced as and when required by the body. Metabolic activities include glucose mobilization and detoxification of harmful substances. It metabolizes the unwanted drugs, chemicals and various waste nutrient substances and aid in their excretion from the body.

With so many important functions it is quite obvious if any injury happens to liver,  it is an injury to the body.

The liver is a large internal organ and body invests  a lot of energy and blood supply most of the time to keep it going smoothly. One of the important signs that is quite obviously observed by lot of people when liver is injured is jaundice. Jaundice is yellow discoloration of eyes, skin, and urine. It is because of the inability of liver to properly process the bilirubin which may be an internal defect or excretory defect. Other important symptoms of liver diseases are loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and change in the stool colour. The liver function test is a simple blood test which gives an idea of injury and extent of injury to the liver. Besides this ultrasonography of liver is a radiological imaging which is also easily available these days.

What are the key reasons for liver injury?

Alcohol abuse and viral hepatitis are the major causes of liver injury. This kind of injury may be acute or chronic. It is commonly accepted that if the signs of injury and abnormal report of liver function test persists for more than six months then it is termed as chronic liver injury. Viral hepatitis can be either because of hepatitis virus A, B, C, D or E but chronic hepatitis is caused by chronic liver infection by viral hepatitis B and C. When the chronicity of liver infection accumulates over years it may result in cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. Cirrhosis is when liver is no longer capable of performing its assigned functions, and consecutively, liver failure is an expected outcome. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the development of cancer in liver.

There are other causes for chronic hepatitis:

Liver degenerative disorder, liver storage disorders, anaesthetic agents, hepatotoxic drugs and metastatic carcinoma to the liver are other important causes for chronic hepatitis and liver failure. Be it any cause or aetiology, once the chronic hepatitis has been set in, there is always a risk for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatocellular carcinoma can be cured if it is limited to confined segment of liver. When hepatocellular carcinoma spreads either to the whole liver or outside the liver, it becomes metastatic or stage-4 disease. This stage is incurable. However, if the ongoing chronicity of liver injury is interrupted then the chances of developing hepatocellular carcinoma decreases.

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