The British Liver Trust has warned that damage to the liver caused by alcohol and unhealthy lifestyles is leading to an increase in liver cancer diagnoses in the UK. In just ten years, the incidence of liver cancer has increased by 60% and currently 16 people every day are diagnosed with the disease.
Most cases of primary liver cancer are linked to cirrhosis (damage and scarring) of the liver. 9 in 10 cases of cirrhosis of the liver is caused by alcohol, obesity and hepatitis infections.
The rise in the number of men and women being diagnosed with liver cancer is presented in the British Liver Trust’s report, The Alarming Impact of Liver Disease in the UK. The report has also revealed that:
- Only around 12% of people diagnosed with liver cancer survive for five years.
- More men than women are diagnosed with liver cancer.
- By 2035, rates of liver cancer are projected to rise by 38%, the equivalent of 11,000 people a year in the UK.
- Around 4 in 10 liver cancer diagnoses in England take place in A & E.
October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month and the charity is urging members of the public and healthcare professionals to find out more about the risks and symptoms of the disease.
“Our helpline receives many calls from people who have been diagnosed with liver cancer, where the primary cause is liver disease, but this has never been picked up.” says Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust. “Taking care of your liver to prevent damage is one the most effective ways you can reduce your risk of cirrhosis which can lead to liver cancer.”
Early diagnosis of liver cancer is difficult because there are often no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Late symptoms may include yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), weakness and fatigue, a change in appetite, unexplained weight loss and abdominal pain.
Pamela continues: “It is therefore vital that we identify people with liver disease and those who are at risk of developing liver disease, at a much earlier stage. Regular screening for cancer in people with advanced liver disease is essential in order to make an early diagnosis of liver cancer.”
The British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver campaign focuses on three simple steps to Love Your Liver back to health:
- Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive days off alcohol every week.
- Cut down on sugar, carbohydrates and fat, and take more exercise.
- Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested or vaccinated if at risk.
The British Liver Trust is the largest UK liver health charity for adults and leads the fight against liver disease and liver cancer. The charity reaches over a million people each year; raising awareness of the risk factors of liver disease and providing vital advice to help people improve their liver health. It provides patients with up to date information and support including a free nurse-led helpline and online community.
Are you at risk of liver disease? Find out by taking the charity's free online screener: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener