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What Are the Symptoms of Liver Cancer?

You can have liver cancer for months or years before developing any symptoms. Symptoms of liver cancer do not usually appear until the cancer has grown relatively large. As the cancer grows, it replaces liver cells or causes pressure in the veins to cause liver failure, ascites, or other signs of liver insufficiency.

People with liver cancer may have these symptoms:

  • Weight loss. Any unusual weight loss may be a symptom of liver cancer.

  • Change in eating habits. A sudden lack of appetite that lasts for a long time or a feeling of being very full even after not eating very much may be signs of liver cancer.

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Lump or mass. An unexplained lump or mass in the upper-right side of the abdomen or in the stomach area may be a tumor growing on the liver. The abdomen may grow quickly if a tumor is present.

  • Pain. Constant pain in the upper-right side of your abdomen or in your stomach area may be a sign that a tumor is growing inside your liver. The tumor may be pushing against another part of your body, or it may spread to other organs (metastasize), causing pain.

  • Jaundice and/or persistent itching. Jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin in the body. Excess bilirubin can turn the eyes and skin yellow. The buildup of bilirubin in the body is also thought to lead to severe itching. If you notice either of these symptoms, you should seek prompt medical attention. 

  • Bleeding. Irritation and swelling of the blood vessels in the upper gastrointestinal tract can cause blood-tinged vomiting that can signal liver cancer. Frequent bruising and severe bleeding from small cuts or even after activities like brushing your teeth can also indicate liver failure due to underlying cancer. The cancer can bleed or rupture into the abdomen.

  • Liver cancer-related hypercalcemia

  • Fever

  • Swelling. Abdominal swelling, fluid in the legs from ascites, or bloating may be a sign of liver cancer.

It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by other less serious medical problems. If you do have any symptoms, you should see your doctor right away. Only special tests performed by a doctor can tell whether you have cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 12/1/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.