Liver cancer is an common but serious type of cancer, and many of its symptoms can be mistaken for less serious health conditions. Like all cancers, there’s currently no cure for liver cancer, which is why recognising symptoms of the disease is very important.
- Liver cancer symptoms: Look out for this sign in your urine and stools
With the liver being located in the upper right portion of the abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach, symptoms may show in this area of the body.
American Cancer Society lists two different symptoms which can affect the belly – pain in the abdomen and swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen.
Liver cancer pain is commonly focused on the top right of the abdominal area, near the right shoulder blade.
The pain can sometimes extend into the back and can also be felt in the lower right portion of the rib cage.
Swelling of the tummy can occur when the liver gets bigger from the growing cancer.
It can also occur when the cancer increases pressure int eh liver causing blood to back up in the vessels. This forces fluid out of the veins into the abdomen.
But it’s important to note these symptoms are more likely to be the result of a more common condition such as bloating.
Regardless, if you experience these symptoms you should see your GP.
Other symptoms of liver cancer
Other symptoms of the condition are listed by the NHS as:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling very full after eating, even if the meal was small
- Feeling and being sick
- Jaundice (yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes)
- Itchy skin
- Feeling very tired and weak
- Bowel cancer symptoms: Do your stools look like this? The warning sign
Could you have liver disease?
Most types of liver disease don’t cause any symptoms in the early stages.
But once symptoms start, the liver is already damaged and scarred. This is known as cirrhosis.
The symptoms of cirrhosis are similar to liver cancer. They include:
- Feeling very tired and weak all the time
- Loss of appetite – which may lead to weight loss
- Loss of sex drive (libido)
- Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
Other symptoms may include itchy skin, or feeling or being sick.
Liver cancer treatment
Treatment for liver cancer depends on a number of things, including where the cancer is, the size of the cancer, and how well a person’s liver is working.
Your doctor will discuss your treatment, it’s benefits and the possible side effects, advises Cancer Research UK.
The main treatments for primary liver cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, heat directly to the tumour (tumour ablation), targeted cancer drugs and radiotherapy.
People with advanced liver cancer may have a targeted cancer drug such as sorafenib and radiotherapy.
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