One of the body’s largest organs, the liver is located on the right side, under the ribcage. When blood exits the stomach and intestines, it goes through the liver, where it is cleansed, removing toxins that are a byproduct of normal functions like breaking down proteins, processing the vitamins and minerals from food into a form your body can use, and breaking down harmful substances and clearing them out of your system. The liver produces bile, which helps the body absorb fat and remove waste. The liver also converts sugar into a usable form to produce energy for your body, helps with blood clotting and more.
Cancer that starts in the liver is called primary liver cancer. The most common type of liver cancer starts in the main type of liver cells called hepatocytes and is called hepatocellular carcinoma. There are other types of liver cancer that are much less common, including: intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma. Approximately 30,000 Americans receive a diagnosis of primary liver cancer each year, with about twice as many cases in men. Metastatic liver cancers that begin elsewhere in the body and spread to the liver are more common than primary liver cancer.
Common Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Often, there are no symptoms of primary liver cancer in the early stages.
When symptoms occur, they include:
- Pain on the right side of the upper abdomen, back and shoulder
- Lack of appetite
- Feeling of fullness
- Weight loss
- Chalky, white stool
There are many ways to treat liver cancer. How your doctor approaches it depends on a variety of factors, including the stage, your general health, your age and more.
Treatment options include:
- Tumor removal surgery – If the liver is functioning well and the tumor is small and located in an operable place, this may be a treatment option.
- Microwave ablation – This treatment destroys cancer cells with heat from a special probe.
If surgery is not possible, and the cancer has not spread outside the liver, the following treatment options may be used:
- Radiation therapy
- Bland embolization or chemoembolization which cut the blood supply to the tumor
If surgery is not possible and the cancer has spread outside the liver, there are some oral medications that may be used for some types of liver cancer. You may also be eligible for a clinical trial.Previous Page Last Review Date: April 30, 2020