What is liver cancer?

Cancer in the liver can occur because of spread from a cancer located elsewhere in the body (known as metastatic cancer) or because cells in the liver itself become cancerous (known as primary cancer of the liver). While metastatic cancer in the liver is far more common than primary cancer, each year primary liver cancer is diagnosed in about 15,000 men and 6,000 women in the United States (Source: NCI).

This article will focus on primary liver cancer, or cancers that develop in the liver. Other names for this cancer is hepatocellular cancer and hepatoma. Scarring, or cirrhosis, of the liver is one of the main risk factors for the development of liver cancer. Chronic infection with hepatitis B or C is another risk factor for hepatocellular cancer.

The liver, which mostly rests under the ribs on the right side of the body, produces substances that aid in digestion as well as other substances required for body function. The liver also removes toxins from the blood. Symptoms of liver cancer can include pain or fullness in the right upper abdomen, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), unexpected weight loss, night sweats, and easy bruising.

When caught early, surgical removal of the cancer has the potential to offer a cure for liver cancer. Liver transplant may be needed if a large portion of the liver needs to be removed.

Among the functions of the liver is the production of factors required for blood clotting. If the amount of these factors drops too low, bleeding, including internal bleeding, may occur easily. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe symptoms, such as heavy bleeding, severe sweating, difficulty breathing, pale or blue lips and fingernails, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), confusion, loss or change in level of consciousness, or vomiting blood.

Seek prompt medical care if you have experienced unexpected weight loss, night sweats, easy bleeding, jaundice, or a sense of fullness in the abdomen.


What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

Cancer of the liver can cause it to become larger and can interfere with some of its vital functions. Liver enlargement may cause a sense of fullness or pain in the abdomen. Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) and easy bleeding are both symptoms that may signal impairment of liver function. Symptoms of liver cancer can be progressive, worsening over time.

Common symptoms... Read more about liver cancersymptoms


What causes liver cancer?

While the specific cause of liver cancer is not known, liver cirrhosis, or scarring, is associated with the vast majority of cases. In the United States, the most common cause of liver cirrhosis is chronic alcohol use or abuse, although cirrhosis due to other chronic diseases can occur. Hepatitis B or C viral infections are also associated with liver cancer, even when cirrhosis is not present. ... Read more about liver cancercauses


How is liver cancer treated?

Goal of cancer treatment

The goal of liver cancer treatment is to permanently cure the cancer or to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the disease in the body, although it may recur or relapse later.

It is important to continue regular visits with your medical care team so that progression or recurrence c... Read more about liver cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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