Hepatic Metastasis: Understanding Colorectal Cancer’s Spread to the Liver
Jeffrey H. Dover
Cancers, in general, are much tougher to manage and ultimately defeat if they have reached an advanced stage. This is largely due to the fact that advanced stages of cancer denote the spread of the disease to other areas of the body. Treatment options become more aggressive when cancer is this extensive, and the likelihood of an ideal outcome for the patient is fairly low. For colon and rectal cancers, metastasis is not uncommon. In fact, about half of all people diagnosed with colorectal cancer will one day be diagnosed with cancer of the liver due to metastasis or recurrence. This process is also commonly referred to as hepatic metastasis.
Though such a high occurrence of metastasis to the liver has been observed, there are encouraging signs in treatment options. There are several treatment options which target the cancer in the liver, and these include:
• Ablation (burning the cancerous cells)
• Cutting the cancerous region out
• Chemotherapy or radiation applied directly to the liver
• Cryotherapy (freezing abnormal cells)
When colorectal cancers spread to the liver, numerous symptoms may become apparent. These include weight loss, blood in the stool, fatigue, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, bloating, loss of appetite, or a feeling of fullness. Also, jaundice may appear, which is the development of a yellow tinge in the skin.
Often, hepatic metastasis must be found by your doctor through various diagnostic tests. These can include blood tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, or through biopsy of the liver. The secondary cancer of the liver can be discovered at the same time the original colorectal cancer is diagnosed, but it can also develop much later.