Liver carcinoma (cancer) begins in the cells of the liver, which is located in the upper right portion of the abdomen. According to Merck.com, liver cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. Of liver cancer cases in the United States, most begin when cancer affects another area of the body and then spreads to the liver.
In the later stages of liver cancer, the abdominal cavity may become swollen with fluid. The condition is called ascites.
Weeks before death, liver jaundice will worsen progressively. With jaundice, the skin and whites of the eyes appear yellow. Urine is often dark. Patients may experience itching and light-coloured stools. Loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea and fever may occur as well.
Confusion and sleepiness may occur, and the patient may have trouble with irritability, agitation, asterxis (flapping of the wrist) and delirium. Coma may also result.
Death normally results within six months of the diagnosis of liver cancer and will occur from gastrointestinal haemorrhage, cachexia (weight loss, fatigue, muscle atrophy, loss of appetite and weakness), liver failure, or metastases (the spread of disease from one area in the body to another area in the body) to the lungs or regional lymph nodes or into the portal vein (a vein in the abdominal cavity).
Hospice nurses or the hospital can offer advice on end-of-life supportive treatment for the family to help ease the patient's discomfort.
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