World Liver Day on April 19 serves two purposes. For patients and health care professionals that have been touched by liver diseases like hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), it’s a moment in time to reflect on the severity of these diseases and highlight the importance of self-awareness on a health issue that often goes unnoticed. The day encourages people who may be at risk of liver disease to engage in conversation with their physicians and close circles about staying vigilant in preventing liver cancer.
John, a 70-year-old man from Nevada living with stage IV cirrhosis, is one of those many advocates who is actively engaged in preventing the progression of his disease. As someone living with an increased risk of liver cancer, he believes “surveillance is the most important thing I can do,” and he encourages others to take the same proactive approach in managing their liver health. Check out these tips on keeping a healthy liver.
1. Know your personal risk level
The liver is referred to as the “silent organ” because the beginning stages of liver disease often show no noticeable symptoms. But according to the American Cancer Society, more than 800,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with liver cancer each year and many more remain at risk due to underlying chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis, fatty liver, and Hepatitis B or C. If you suffer from these conditions or consume alcohol or tobacco excessively, you may be at higher risk for developing liver cancer.
2. Make a liver care plan
A healthier liver means a healthier you. Eating a balanced diet and making balanced choices can go a long way toward keeping your liver healthy. Avoiding alcohol, exercising regularly and following a consistent schedule with your medications can all be helpful in lowering your overall risk. However, it is still important to keep tabs on what that risk level is; routine cancer surveillance testing can make a difference for your liver and your life.
3. Pay attention to your liver – test early, and often
Finding cancer early can be a key factor in defeating it. In fact, according to Cancer Research UK, the 10-year survival rate for some cancers is more than 90% for those diagnosed with stage I, compared with 5% for those diagnosed with stage IV. Unfortunately, less than half of all liver cancers in the U.S. are diagnosed early while the disease is still localized.
That’s why John is a regular when it comes to cancer surveillance. He knows that “if you catch liver cancer early, there’s a better chance of getting it cured.” After all, John’s reasons for keeping his liver healthy extend beyond his physical health. For him, managing his liver health means he can continue to be a caretaker for his wife, who’s fighting her own health issues. By making liver surveillance a part of his healthcare routine, he can be more present for his family when they need him most.
4. Be your own advocate and prioritize your healthcare
Advocating for yourself can be daunting — especially when it comes to proactively monitoring your liver. Start by preparing a list of questions or concerns you may have about your overall and liver health. By making the most of your regular doctor appointments with clear and confident communication, you and your healthcare team can effectively create a customized plan that works for you.
Additionally, liver surveillance is recommended every six months, which means prioritizing your health starts with making it to the appointment first. For some people, scheduling and taking time to attend ultrasounds, the current method of liver disease surveillance, can be burdensome to complete regularly. Discuss testing options with your doctor that may be more effective and convenient for you.
5. Talk to your doctor about surveillance options
For those at high risk of developing liver cancer, simple blood tests such as HelioLiver may be an option for routine surveillance. The non-invasive test, conducted during a standard check-up, uses AI-enabled technology to provide a highly sensitive analysis of a patient’s blood sample — no fasting, specialty appointment or long wait time required. According to a recent clinical trial, HelioLiver can detect the presence of cancer earlier than other clinically available tests.
The saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm,” and being proactive about your liver health may mean the difference of saving a life. Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, you may have an urgent need for routine surveillance. When testing for liver cancer can be as easy as a simple blood draw, the question becomes, “Why not?” rather than “Why me?” Talk to your doctor to see if routine surveillance for liver cancer is right for you, and learn more at HelioLiver.com.