Pruritus could be an early sign of liver cancer, doctor warns
Liver cancer: Expert discusses symptoms and treatments
Liver cancer often doesn’t raise red flags until the later stages, making the condition difficult to identify promptly.
However, a certain sensation on your skin could be among the first to ring alarm bells.
Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, said: “Pruritus (itching) eventually sets in, caused by the build-up of bile salts in the skin.
“This is what happens if you develop jaundice with the characteristic yellowing of the skin and eyes.”
Under normal circumstances, your liver produces bile, which describes a dark green or yellowish fluid that gets released into your small intestine from the gallbladder.
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In liver cancer, this sign occurs because the production and flow of bile is interrupted as your liver becomes infiltrated with tumour.
This can sometimes trigger a blockage of the bile duct, leading to obstructive jaundice.
Leaving bile building up in the liver, jaundice causes bile salts to become deposited in the skin and the whites of your eyes.
Apart from the visible indications of jaundice, this sign can also be felt on your skin as an itch.
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What’s more, Dr Lee explained that itching can be “a very early symptom” before liver cancer is diagnosed.
She said: “It can occur at any stage of the disease, but it more commonly occurs in the later stages.”
The doctor explained that around 19 to 40 percent of patients with liver cancer receive the diagnosis around this time.
This means the cancer is usually advanced, representing a late stage of the disease.
Apart from pruritus and jaundice, there are some other warning signs that could alert you to the culprit.
According to the NHS, the key symptoms of liver cancer to look out for include:
- Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
- Feeling tired or having no energy
- Feeling generally unwell or having symptoms like flu
- A lump in the right side of your tummy
- Feeling or being sick
- Pain at the top right side of your tummy or in your right shoulder
- Symptoms of indigestion (such as feeling full very quickly when eating)
- A very swollen tummy that is not related to when you eat
- Having darker pee and paler poo than usual.
Dr Lee advises to “see your GP” if you suffer from any warning signs linked to the deadly condition.
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