When Lorena Lechuga from Anaheim underwent a weight loss procedure, doctors found a two-kilogram tumor in her liver.
“I was only 39 when this happened to me … All I did was pray and do everything the doctors told me to do,” Lechuga said.
Her doctor, Dr. Hisham El-Bayar of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, says many people find they have liver cancer when they seek medical help for something else. Cases have risen by 75% worldwide since 1990.
“There are a significant number of people at risk, either because of alcohol, hepatitis B and hepatitis C,”
COVID-19 has an impact: studies show that alcohol consumption is increasing. Another concern? Dr. El-Bayar says people gain pandemic pounds and this can lead to fatty liver disease and eventually liver cancer.
“It has really become an epidemic and is about to overcome all other causes,” said Dr. El-Bayer.
“I am the first in my family from my mother and father to ever have some kind of cancer,” Lechuga said.
After the operation, she underwent three years of oral chemotherapy and still has regular liver scans.
“Treatment varies from surgery, which is the most ideal thing, or removing the tumor, or a liver transplant, if you can get there,” Dr. El-Bayer said.
Dr El-Bayar says it will take years to see the effects on the liver due to human behavior during this pandemic. But his advice: make healthy choices now and be aware.
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