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13Jan

David Bowie died this week of liver cancer.

David Bowie died this week of liver cancer.

The world experienced a palpable and seismic tremor of sadness at the death of David Bowie this week, who had fought an 18 month battle with cancer. As further details emerge it seems that the underlying diagnosis was of liver cancer. So what exactly is liver cancer and who gets it?

 

There are 2 main types of liver cancer, ‘primary’, where the cancer originates from liver and associated tissue and ‘secondary’ (or metastatic) where the cancer has spread to the liver from another site in the body. In western society, secondary is very much more common than primary, which is pretty rare.

 

Secondary Liver Cancer

 

Secondary or metastatic liver cancer is by far the most common type of liver cancer seen in developed countries. It occurs when a cancer has developed somewhere else in the body and tiny cells of the cancer break off and circulate around the body in the blood or lymphatic system. It is is likened to a plant or flower disseminating its seeds and is often referred to in medical parlance, as the cancer seeding itself.

The liver is an extremely important organ, in that it is not just the industrial manufacturing powerhouse of the body, it is also responsible for ‘cleaning’ and ‘detoxifying’ the blood and so no wonder that cancer cells frequently lodge there.

Sadly this makes treatment of cancer very difficult because if a cancer has already seeded itself to the liver, then in most circumstances, the cancer is not curable by a simple operation to remove it and often complicated and onerous courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are required to try and suppress or remove the cancer.

 

Primary Liver Cancer

 

This is much rarer than secondary cancer and occurs when a cancer develops actually within liver or associated tissue.

In 99% of the time, the liver is already diseased and has developed cirrhosis. The commonest causes for cirrhosis are alcohol and chronic hepatitis B or C.

Alcohol is the commonest cause of primary liver cancer in the west and chronic hepatitis B in the far east and in Africa.

In the 60s and 70s when IV drug abuse became more of a problem in the UK, then hepatitis C (still not actually identified) was passed around between the users to such an extent that nearly 100% became infected with hepatitis C. Many of these have subsequently developed liver cirrhosis and primary liver cancer. There have however, been great advances in curing patients with chronic hepatitis.

 

If you are worried about liver cancer in you or someone you know then ask your GP or doctor.

Dr Helen Webberley

www.mywebdoctor.co.uk

  

Dr Helen Webberley

Dr Helen Webberley is an NHS GP with a practice in South Wales, and an experienced online doctor providing healthcare advice and treatment via the Internet. She is a talkhealth expert in the Online Clinics. If anyone has any queries about their health then feel free to contact her.

3 Responses to R.I.P. David Bowie – and what do we know about liver cancer?

  1. SayNoToShingles | Shingles Prevalence

    It’s very unfortunate that an icon such as David Bowie died at an early time because of liver cancer. Cancer is such a drastic disease that can take lives in a blink of an eye. And when it start to develop, it will spread like wildfire. The spread of cancer is one thing, but when it hit the important parts of our body system, such as the liver, the repercussions can be fatal, and for some, it is hard to stop. I agree that if cancer has already reached the liver, which is the powerhouse of our body, treatment can be very difficult because cancer is something that cannot be removed through a simple operation. It really pays to live a healthy lifestyle, and shying away from bad substance.

    • Kirsty

      Wise words and final thoughts there, living a healthy lifestyle is the ideal and staying away from substances is too but unfortunately we’re a long way from that as a society. In my line of work (Health supplements / Nutrition) I find that many of the people who come to us are looking for ‘after the fact’ cleansing/reparation style products, especially when it comes to the Liver and especially around this time of year when the excesses of the holidays start to bear down on us. My advice to anyone who is concerned about their liver function, or a friend/family members, is to hit it with a two pronged attack. The first is dietary, cut out fatty, fried, processed foods and alcohol. All you’re doing with these is making your Liver’s life hell by forcing it to filter out things that it doesn’t want to, adding strain to other organs in the process. The second is very much down the aforementioned route of cleansing/reparation and can help reverse the effects of prior excess. Simple changes to your diet like drinking Green Tea instead of Red Bull or any of the other horrible energy drinks will make a difference, supoorting your blood with iron rich foods or supplements will to. Day by day you can make the little changes that ultimately make a big difference to your liver health and overall well being. Hopefully then we will start to reap the benefits and ‘starmen’ such as Bowie won’t be taken from us all too soon.

  2. Andrew Langford

    There is excellent information about all liver conditions on the British Liver Trust’s website http://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk and they also have a very supportive helpline 0800 652 7330.
    There are also support groups throughout the UK and an online support forum – more info on their website http://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk

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