Filipino veteran actor, Raphael John de Mesa Eigenmann, more popularly known as Mark Gil in Philippine showbiz died at age 52 last September 1, 2014 because of liver cirrhosis. The Eigenmann family revealed that the actor was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2012. It was Gil’s wish to keep his condition a secret even when he found out last June 2014 that his cancer was in the last stage. He would have been 53 on September 25.
September has been declared Liver Cancer month in the Philippines to raise public awareness about the illness. Liver cancer is considered as the eighth most common cancer worldwide but high incidence makes it the third most common cancer in the Philippines.
The liver is a very important part of the digestive system. It is a large, meaty organ on the right side of the stomach, beneath the diaphragm.The food that you eat, liquids that you drink and medicines that you take all pass through the liver. The is to “filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body.” The liver is also responsible in detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs. It also produces proteins that aid blood clotting.
Liver cancer starts in liver cells. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer which starts in hepatocyte, the main type of liver cell. The cause of most cases of liver cancer is not clear but some cases are linked to certain hepatitis viruses.
Symptoms of liver cancer are the following according to WebMD.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Weakness and fatigue
- White, chalky stools
It is recommended that you consult a doctor if you experience any of the mentioned symptoms.
The doctor can request any of the following tests and procedures to diagnose liver cancer.
- Blood tests may help detect liver function abnormalities.
- Imaging tests like ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Liver biopsy – a sample of liver tissue is examined to diagnose liver cancer.
Treatment – Possible forms of treatment for liver cancer include the following:
- Liver transplant
- Freezing cancer cells
- Injecting alcohol into the tumor
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
How to protect your liver – WebMD shares the following proven ways to protect your liver.
Avoid alcohol – Drinking too much alcohol can damage liver cells and cause swelling. Liver scarring may lead to cirrhosis which can be fatal. If you choose to drink, consume alcohol in moderation or avoid alcohol at all.
For healthy adults, moderate drinking is limited to up to one drink a day for women of all ages and males older than 65 years. Younger males may have up to two drinks a day.
Excessive drinking increases risk of serious health problems including liver cancer. Heavy drinking is consuming more than three alcoholic beverages a day or more than seven drinks a week for individuals over 65 years old or more than 14 drinks a week for men aged 65 and below. Binge drinking is also very harmful to the liver. It is consuming four or more alcohol drinks in the span of two hours for women and five or more alcohol beverages in the span of two hours for men.
Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly – Eat nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods rich in sulfur such as garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc. promote liver detoxification. Fibrous fruits and vegetables can help harmful toxins to move through your digestive tract. If possible, eat organic foods. Organic produce are free from pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, and other drugs that may be harmful to our health.
Refrain from eating too much fried and processed foods that contain transfats or hydrogenated oils. Limit consuming fructose that you normally find in soda and juice drinks. These foods may cause obesity and liver problems.
A disease called Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) refers to the accumulation of fat in the liver of non-drinkers. Obesity is one of the risk factors of this disease. It usually does not show signs and symptoms. Other risk factors are Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides in the blood. Serious form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease may lead to cirrhosis.
Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise can help prevent liver diseases. Regular exercise can help maintain healthy body weight and lower risk of fatty liver health disease.
Be careful of taking medicines – It is recommended that you consult a physician before taking any medicine. Discuss the effects of prescription drugs with a doctor. Anti-cholesterol drugs and painkillers can be toxic to the liver if taken in large dosage. Always follow prescribed dosage.
Be aware of hepatitis – Hepatitis is a virus that causes liver inflammation. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is transmitted by water or food that have been contaminated with bacteria found in feces or from close contact with an infected individual. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are transmitted through blood and body fluids. When left untreated, the patient may develop cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
Prevent contracting Hepatitis by maintaining proper hygiene, frequent hand washing and avoiding unsanitary places. Consult your doctor about Hepatitis vaccination.
Join a cancer support group – Cancer support groups can help give information, provide comfort, give emotional support, and teach patients about coping skills. Visit the Philippine Cancer Society website for a list of cancer groups in the Philippines.
Photo: Liver cancer prevention poster from Philippine Cancer Society.
Rachel Yapchiongco, also known as Rach to her friends, is a Psychology and Marketing Management graduate of De La Salle University. Rachel is a chocolate lover, full-time mom to a charming young boy and married to an entrepreneur who has a passion for cooking. She shares parenting experiences and slices of everyday life on her personal blog called Heart of Rachel.