According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (Open 2014; online 19 November), cancer of the pancreatic duct or biliary tract (bile ducts) often produces tell tale signs that should act as red flags to doctors. Early detection increases survival rates.
Almost half of patients with pancreatic cancer and 37% of patients with bile duct cancer experienced abdominal pain. Other common symptoms were jaundice, indigestion and itchy skin (pruritis). Unexplained weight loss is also sometimes a sign. Liver function tests are often abnormal, with elevated levels of liver enzymes and bilirubin. The incidence of pancreatic cancer is rising rapidly, and unfortunately survival rates are very poor.
In contrast, cancer of the liver often produces no early signs or symptoms, leading to delayed diagnosis and poor survival rates. Anyone with the above symptoms should have tests such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan of the abdomen or an MRI scan. A gastroscopy may also be required.
Because liver cancer is often silent and not suspected, it is important to see your doctor annually for a check up. Always have a blood test to check liver and kidney function and if you have a high risk of cancer have a scan of your liver.
What can increase your risk of cancer of the liver?
- Excess alcohol
- Fatty liver
- Infection with the hepatitis B and C viruses
- Excessively high levels of iron in your body
- Poor diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Microwave cooking – this is controversial but I think it is a factor
- Low levels of selenium in your body
- Being a diabetic, or having insulin resistance (syndrome X). These conditions cause are associated with elevated blood levels of the hormone insulin. Insulin is a growth promoting hormone and may fuel the growth of tumors. There is an eating plan designed to optimize insulin levels in my syndrome X book.
- Insufficient levels of vitamin D in the blood. This is extremely common. Please ask your doctor for a vitamin D test the next time you have a blood test.
- Taking the oral contraceptive pill for many years without a break
Please never take your liver for granted, as in this day and age it is exposed to many toxins and is working very hard to protect you; a regular check of your liver is vital. An ultrasound scan of the abdomen will also show the condition of your pancreas, bile ducts and kidneys as well as your liver.
Be proactive – Love your liver and live longer! Learn how to look after your liver in my best selling book The Liver Cleansing Diet.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.