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What Are the Symptoms of Liver Cancer?

By Jackie Myers
Updated May 17, 2024
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The symptoms of liver cancer vary and can be detected by screening people who are at risk for it. Among the symptoms of liver cancer are unexplained weight loss, bloating in the abdominal region, pain in the upper right abdomen, fatigue and jaundice. The earliest signs can be subtle, so in countries where healthcare is limited or when patients ignore their symptoms, liver cancer is often not diagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage.

People who have liver diseases such as cirrhosis can mistake their condition worsening with cancer in the liver. They must specifically watch for unexplained weight loss and fevers. This is a symptom of liver cancer for those who have cirrhosis. It is important for people who have cirrhosis to monitor their symptoms if it worsens because it has a higher chance of being liver cancer.

Those who have cancer in other areas of the body such as the breast or colon will notice symptoms after it spreads to the liver. Pain can develop in the upper abdomen toward the right side of the body. The pain will also be felt in the back and along the shoulders. Most people who have the disease spread to other body parts report symptoms of liver cancer, including abdominal swelling and feeling full.

Bloating in the abdominal region is one of the serious symptoms of liver cancer. It is referred to as ascites. This occurs when there is an excessive amount of fluid that accumulates in the abdominal lining. Ascites cause the abdomen to distend and swell. This results in the blood pressure within the liver to rise, which impairs blood flow.

Fatigue is common within people who have liver cancer. The weakness they experience is because of their body's inability to properly absorb fat-soluble vitamins. As the cancer progresses, their body is more susceptible to developing autoimmune disorders. Hypertension is another symptom of liver cancer.

It is possible for people to check for symptoms of liver cancer by looking at their skin and eyes. Any discoloring of these areas indicates jaundice. This occurs when abnormally high amounts of bilirubin accumulate in the blood stream. Abnormal liver cells and bile duct blockages cause the body to have yellow discoloration. Jaundice can be an indicator of liver cancer.

When cysts are discovered on the liver, a biopsy is performed to find out whether it is malignant. Most liver cancers develop in the liver cells. Many of the signs are silent, so it is necessary for a doctor to perform a physical exam and blood test. Imaging equipment ultimately determines whether the symptoms that a person experiences are caused by liver cancer.

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