What Is Liver Cancer?

The liver is an organ located in the upper-right part of your abdomen. It is a vital part of your body and performs many functions, including:

  • Filtering all of the blood from the stomach, intestines and spleen
  • Producing bile, which helps the body absorb fat
  • Removing toxins from the blood, including medication
  • Regulating blood sugar and stores extra blood sugar
  • Helping with digestion
  • Storing vitamins and minerals
  • Regulating other organs, like your kidneys
  • Controlling production and removal of cholesterol
  • Producing proteins and blood-clotting factors

Primary liver cancer occurs when cancer cells grow in the liver. Other cancers may spread to the liver, but primary liver cancer means the cancer formed in the liver. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that developed in a different part of the body and spread to the liver. The most common form of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which accounts for four out of five liver cancers. Other types of primary liver cancer include:

  • Cholangiocarcinoma: Forms in the bile ducts of the liver. It accounts for 10% to 20% of all liver cancers.
  • Mixed hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma: A rare and aggressive form of liver cancer.
  • Hepatoblastoma: A rare liver cancer usually found in children.
  • Angiosarcoma: Forms in the lining of the blood and lymph vessels of the liver.
  • Hemangioendothelioma: Grows in the cells that make up blood vessels.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Typically, liver cancer symptoms do not occur until advanced stages of the disease. Symptoms of liver cancer may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling of fullness, even if you only eat a small amount
  • Nausea or vomiting, blood-tinged vomit
  • Yellowing of the skin (jaundice) or the whites of the eyes (scleral icterus)
  • Lump or mass on upper-right side of your abdomen
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Constant pain in the upper-right side of your abdomen
  • Frequent bruising
  • Severe bleeding from minor injuries or activities like brushing your teeth
  • Fever
  • Hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood)

Related Resources

Liver Cancer Treatment Guide