80 per cent of liver cancer occur in Asia
KUCHING: Asia has the highest incidence of Hepatocellular Carcinoma or Liver Cancer as 80 per cent of the cases worldwide occur in the continent.
A former student of St Joseph’s Secondary school here, Singapore-based liver cancer specialist Professor Dr Pierce Chow said liver cancer is most common in Asia because of chronic hepatitis B and C.
From his research works in Singapore, Chow said, most of the cancer patients there were of Chinese origin and he believed the situation could be the same in the state.
Chow said liver is the only organ in the human body that can regenerate itself.
“For example, like the earthworm if we cut it into half, the back part will regenerate itself, but we are not earthworms but that is the only part of the body which has that ability.
“This is also possible if the liver is healthy. Meaning healthy liver can regenerate itself very well, unhealthy one which will regenerate very slow,” Dr Chow told The Borneo Post here yesterday.
Healthy liver, he said, could regenerate in a period of four months.
“But if the liver is not well, it will regenerate very slowly, so the state of the liver is very important to determine its regeneration,” he said.
Chow, who did his PhD in liver regeneration, also disclosed that liver cancer like any other cases of cancer could be cured if it is detected in its early stage.
“Early stage means if it is detected at stage one or stage two there is a chance to be cured. There is a 50 per cent chance that you can live for more than five years. So if you go for surgery you can be potentially cured and there is a chance that the tumour may not come back.
As for stage three and stage four, it is just to prolong the life of the patients, there is no cure, said Chow.
For stage three liver cancer patients, Dr Chow said the survival chances would depend very much on how the patients were treated.
“They can live up to three years and for stage four; the patients can last for eight months. But normally I tell the patients that this is statistics because we can never predict the survival rate of new patients; otherwise they will be very demoralised.
“The truth is that I don’t know but I can only give advice that it is based on the data that we will have to conduct on the patients,” he said.
“Most of these patients also have hepatitis B. And there may be a genetic components involved.
“It is very much related to fatty liver which does not necessarily happen to fatty people. It can also happen to a regular and normal person.
“So it is based on lifestyle and related to carbohydrate metabolism,” he said, but quick to stress that fatty liver could be reversed through regular exercise.
“But it can be also be related to ethnicity of the person. Research in the US showed that African-American have not much problem with it even though they may be fat. But the Hispanic will have higher chance of having fatty liver,” said Chow.
He also advised the people to go for regular checkup.
“If you are a hepatitis carrier the risk of getting liver cancer is 100 times more than the non-carrier. So if you are a carrier, you have to go for ultra sound test for every six months and also to undergo blood test for cancer marker,” he stressed.