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Liver cancer 

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The liver is the largest internal organ. It's under your right ribs, just beneath your right lung. It has two lobes (sections). 

The different types of cells in the liver can form several types of tumors. Tumors are cancerous or noncancerous growths that form when too many cells grow. Each is treated in a different way, with different results.

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FAQs

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  • When too many cancer cells grow in the liver, a cancerous tumor can form.

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  • Common signs include:

    • Weight loss without trying
    • Not feeling hungry
    • Feeling very full after a small meal
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • An enlarged liver, which you might feel under your right side ribs
    • An enlarged spleen, which you might feel under your left side ribs
    • Pain in the stomach or near the right shoulder blade
    • Swelling or fluid build-up in the stomach
    • Itching
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

    Other symptoms can include:

    • Fever
    • Enlarged veins on the belly that can be seen through the skin
    • Abnormal bruising or bleeding

    These symptoms can happen for other reasons besides cancer. If you have symptoms like those listed above, you should talk to your provider to find out the reason. 

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  • Liver cancer can be hard to find in its early stages. It's important to get tested if you have a greater chance of getting liver cancer. It's also important to talk to your doctor as soon as you can if you have any signs or symptoms. 

    There are many ways your doctor may find liver cancer. Your doctor might do one or more of the following:

    • An imaging test, like an X-ray or CT scan  
    • A biopsy (taking a sample of tissue from your body and testing it) 
    • Lab tests and other screening tests, such as a blood test 
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  • About 24,000 men and 10,000 women get liver cancer each year in the United States. Rates of liver cancer are going up. 

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  • Several things can raise your chance of getting liver cancer:  

    • Men are more likely to get it than women 
    • Some ethnic groups have higher rates, including, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Black Americans and Latinos 
    • If you have a history of long-term hepatitis B or C, which are types of infection 
    • If you have cirrhosis or type 2 diabetes
    • If you’re a heavy alcohol or tobacco user 
    • If you’re overweight or have too much body fat, which can cause fatty liver disease and scarring of the liver
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  • There are some things you can do to help lower your chances for getting liver chancer, such as:

    • Have a low-fat diet (eating plan) 
    • Don't smoke
    • Don't drink alcohol
    • Watch your body weight and get exercise

    It also helps if you:

    • Try not to get hepatitis B and C
    • Get care from a doctor right away if you do get hepatitis B and C
    • Get care for diseases that raise your chances of getting liver cancer, such as cirrhosis 
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  • How we care for liver cancer depends on many factors: 

    • Type of cancer
    • Size of the cancer
    • Where the cancer is located in the body 
    • Stage of cancer 

    Your doctor will work with you to find the right care plan for you. Some examples of treatment include:

    • Surgery to remove cancer 
    • Chemotherapy (using medication to make the cancer smaller or to kill cancer cells)
    • Radiation (using X-rays to kill cancer cells) 
    • Targeted therapy (using drugs to stop cancer cells from growing and spreading)
    • Ablation to kill liver tumors without removing them 
    • Immunotherapy (using the body’s immune system that naturally fights illness)
    • Embolization therapy (putting substances into a vein in the liver to block lessen blood flow to a tumor)
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Sources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Liver Cancer. Accessed April 9, 2021.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of New Cancers. Accessed April 9, 2021.