Liver cancer is neglected by more than half of Brazilians

Cancer of the liver and intrahepatic bile ducts ranks sixth in the list of male cancer mortality in the country.
Cancer of the liver and intrahepatic bile ducts ranks sixth in the list of male cancer mortality in the country.| Photo: Bigstock

Chronic coexistence with viruses that cause hepatitis is one of the main factors responsible for so-called hepatocellular carcinoma (or hepatocarcinoma), which is the most common type of primary liver cancer. And most Brazilians neglect this type of neoplasm, which occurs in more than 80% of cases and is considered aggressive. The information comes from Agência Einstein.

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Data from a survey commissioned by the Brazilian Liver Institute (Ibrafig) show that 52% of the population has not done (or does not know if it has done) tests for the detection of hepatitis B. for hepatitis C, the number rises to 60%. Contradictorily, eight out of 10 respondents said they know that hepatitis testing is available free of charge in public health facilities. Despite this, 47% of them answered that they had not done the examination because they did not feel the need or the pain, while 46% showed a lack of interest.

The Ibrafig survey interviewed 1,995 people over the age of 18, in person, in 129 municipalities in the five regions of the country, between September 8 and September 15, 2021. The margin of error for the total sample is 2 points percentage, for plus or minus, in the 95% confidence level.

detection and evolution

Liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancers rank sixth in the list of male cancer mortality in the country. Among women, they occupy the eighth position, according to data from 2019 from the National Cancer Institute, INCA. not in the world, according to 2020 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease is the third of deaths. Hepatitis C is curable and for hepatitis B there is a vaccine made available by the SUS.

Hepatitis tests, if positive, are essential to assess the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma, which is usually asymptomatic and treatable in the initial stage. When discovered at the stage when symptoms are already evident, care is mainly palliative and the prognosis is less optimistic, according to information from Ibrafig.

In addition to hepatitis infections, this type of cancer can result from excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages and fatty liver disease, or “fat in the liver.” Other types of organ tumors are cholangiocarcinomas (inflammation of the bile ducts) and angiosarcomas (contact with carcinogens such as vinyl chloride, inorganic arsenicals and thorium dioxide solution, found in pesticides) .

These types represent primary cancers of the liver, which begin in the organ itself. There are also secondary or metastatic tumours, the origin of which lies elsewhere and which, as the disease progresses, reach the liver. According to the CNIB, the most common secondary type comes from tumors of the large intestine or rectum.


Among the symptoms that should attract attention, according to CNIBthey are:

  • Abdominal dor;
  • abdominal mass;
  • Abdominal distention;
  • unexplained weight loss;
  • loss of appetite;
  • Faintness;
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.

viral hepatitis

O Epidemiological Bulletin of Viral Hepatitispublished in July 2020 by the Ministry of Health, points out that 74,864 people died in Brazil between 2000 and 2018 from the disease.

The five types of viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E) are caused by different infectious agents, and the most common symptoms are fatigue, fever, malaise, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, skin and eyes. (jaundice), dark urine and pale stools.

Vaccines are only available for type A (children under five and people with liver disease) and type B (general population).


Avoiding infection with viral hepatitis, especially B and C, decreases the risk of liver cancer. Other measures that can be taken:

  1. Prevent metabolic diseases such as fat accumulation in the liver (hepatic steatosis) and diabetes;
  2. Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages;
  3. Never use anabolic steroids unless specifically prescribed by a doctor;
  4. Avoid pre-malignant lesions, such as hepatic adenomas, related to the use of oral contraceptives;
  5. Maintain adequate body weight;
  6. Do not consume foods contaminated with aflatoxin – a substance produced by fungi/molds found in groundnuts, maize and cassava, when stored under improper conditions,
  7. Do not smoke and avoid inhaling cigarette smoke.

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