The liver is located in the right side of the abdomen. It stores and metabolizes nutrients. It also filters and stores blood. Liver cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the liver.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. These tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
The cause of liver cancer is not known. Research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.
Factors that may increase you chance of liver cancer include:
Symptoms of liver cancer in the early stages are vague. They often go unnoticed.
Liver cancer can cause the following symptoms:
These may also be caused by other, less serious health conditions. See a doctor if you have these symptoms.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your doctor may need to view images of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
If liver cancer is found, staging tests are done. This will help find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent. Surgery is the only procedure used to try to cure liver cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can reduce symptoms associated with the cancer. They are not considered able to cure liver cancer by themselves.
To reduce your risk of getting liver cancer:
American Cancer Society
American Liver Foundation
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Liver cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/livercancer/index. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Liver cancer. National Cancer Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/liver. Accessed April 29, 2013.
Salem, R, Lewandowski, RJ, Mulcahy, MF, et al. Radioembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma using Yttrium-90 microspheres: a comprehensive report of long-term outcomes. Gastroenterology. 2010;138:52.
SHARP: study of heart and renal protection. Clinical Trials.gove website. Available at: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00125593. Updated January 31, 2012. Accessed April 29, 2013.
3/19/2010 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed : Saunders D, Seidel D, Allison M, Lyratzopoulos G. Systematic review: the association between obesity and hepatocellular carcinoma—epidemiologic evidence. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Feb 18.
3/17/2014 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Luo J, Yang Y, et al. Systematic review with meta-analysis: meat consumption and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Mar 3.
Last reviewed April 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.