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Cancer is a catchall phrase for diseases caused by a deregulation of damaged cells. This process can occur anywhere in the body, making symptoms difficult to generalise and pinpoint. In the face of growing diagnoses, researchers are urging increased awareness of cancer symptoms. Occasionally, signs that a tumour is pressing against the liver could occur in the shoulder.
According to the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforces, liver cancer is among the forms of the disease less easy to survive.
The health platform explains: “Together, six of these less survivable cancers (lung, pancreatic, liver, brain oesophageal and stomach) are responsible for all deaths from common cancers and make up a quarter of cancer case.”
The disease occurs when malignant cells divide and grow uncontrollably in the liver, destroying healthy neighbouring tissue.
This rapid growth of cells triggers the formation of tumours around the liver, which can cause symptoms in seemingly unrelated regions of the body.
READ MORE: Cancer warning: A ‘pro-inflammatory’ diet linked to an almost 50% higher risk of cancer
Cancer Research UK explained: “A swollen (enlarged) liver can cause pain in your right shoulder.
“This is because the enlarged liver stimulates nerves that connect to nerves in the shoulder. This is called ‘referred pain’.”
The pain can be felt on the right side, or near the right shoulder blade, and tends to be continuous.
Occasionally, the pain may radiate down the back, or spread to the top right side of the stomach.
Signs that the disease is indicative of cancer may include swelling in the abdomen, legs or ankles, which may cause discomfort.
Sometimes, abdominal swelling may occur solely on the right side of the cavity.
This is because mounting pressure in the liver could force blood to back up in the blood vessels.
As this occurs, fluid is forced out of the veins and into the abdominal cavity, causing swelling under the surface of the abdomen.
Figures show that without treatment, the median survival rate for stage A liver cancer is three years.
While many cases stem from unknown causes, research shows the majority result from damage to the organ, such as cirrhosis.
The causes of cirrhosis on the other hand, are clearer, with excessive drinking and long-term hepatitis B or hepatitis C viral infection among known causes.
Both infections, which are spread through blood contact, can cause scarring of the liver over time.
How to avoid cancer
Although there is no proven way to prevent cancer, some lifestyle factors have been shown to lower the risk of disease.
Food sources rich in antioxidants, for example, contain molecules that work by neutralising the harmful effects of free radicals.
This process is critical for preserving the health of cells and stopping them from becoming cancerous.
Exercise is equally important to reduce inflammation, maintain a healthy weight and boost the immune system, according to research.
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