To mark World Digestive Health Day, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is holding many events to raise awareness about liver cancer, the fifth most common cancer in the world.
This year’s theme is ‘Liver Cancer: Act Today, Save Your Life Tomorrow”’ and in Qatar, liver cancer ranks amongst the top 10 types of cancer diagnosed in the country, according to Senior Consultant, Organ Transplant Center at HMC, Professor Hatem Khalaf.
Each year World Digestive Health Day, held on May 29, this year, focuses on a different aspect of digestive health in order to increase general public awareness of prevention and therapy. Dr. Khalaf said that damage to the liver, known as liver cirrhosis, is the main risk factor for developing liver cancer. Some of the common causes of liver cirrhosis are preventable; such as viral hepatitis, alcohol consumption and obesity.
“It is important to recognize that viral hepatitis, alcohol consumption, and obesity are all risk factors that can be significantly reduced by making important lifestyle changes,” Professor Khalaf said. “Hepatitis C and B are chronic blood-borne infections that can be prevented by following simple precautions; avoiding sharing anything that could have blood on it (razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, towels or needles).”
Eating fatty foods on a regular basis greatly increases your risk of obesity and contributes to fatty changes in the liver, which can lead to long term inflammation and eventually liver cirrhosis. Alcohol can also damage liver cells and cause cirrhosis.
Professor Khalaf advises that: “Eating a healthy diet which is low in saturated fat, taking regular exercise and avoiding alcohol is a good way to reduce your risk of developing liver cirrhosis that can lead to liver cancer.”
According to Professor Khalaf, the signs and symptoms of liver cancer can make early detection difficult as they often don’t present in the early stages of the disease. Symptoms are usually only visible when it is too late, explains Professor Khalaf, who stresses that being proactive and preventing the disease is the most effective form of treatment.
“Some of the most common symptoms of liver cancer are weight loss, abdominal distention, weakness, yellowing of the skin, and bruising and bleeding easily; these symptoms often present when the disease is at an advanced stage and incurable,” he said. “The most effective way to approach liver cancer is to proactively reduce your own risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”