SAN FRANCISCO — Surindra Vasudeva is still trying to put the pieces together. This fall, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, and his best option now is a transplant.
"The first time you hear the word cancer, you are devastated, Vasudeva shared. "I had absolutely had no symptoms."
"Most patients feel nothing when they have chronic liver disease, and it's really only detected by blood tests," explained Dr. Elizabeth Hwang, associate chief of gastroenterology and the director of hepatology at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
Vasudeva, however, was unaware that his other health issues were putting a burden on his liver, which led to cirrhosis.
"The primary thing was auto-immune hepatitis, but he also has diabetes and high blood pressure," Hwang continued.
That's why Hwang said it's important to be aware how our lifestyle can affect the long-term health of our liver.
"During this pandemic, a lot of patients are being more free with their alcohol use or allowing themselves to have a worse diet than usual, and all of this can damage the liver in the long-term," Hwang said.
It's especially important to be mindful if you have a pre-existing condition.
"Obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes or cholesterol are affected by your diet and can lead to fatty liver disease and then cirrhosis," Hwang said.
Make sure your doctor checks your liver health during your annual exams. It's important to know if there's a red flag.
"Therefore, we can screen them very aggressively," Hwang stated. "We have lots of treatment options."
"I'm very optimistic," smiled Vasudeva.
It's also important to note that the liver can heal from early-stage damage. That is why it's so important to identify problems before it becomes disease and irreversible. Some of the subtle early warning signs are tiredness, changes in appetite, bruising, and increased blood pressure.
Liver cancer is the fifth-most common cancer worldwide.