Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It helps you digest food and makes substances that help your body work.
There are 2 kinds of liver cancer:
The most common primary liver cancer in adults is:
Other types of primary liver cancer are uncommon or rare.
If not treated, liver cancers grow and spread and keep the liver from functioning normally. Cancers that start in other organs can spread to the liver and are treated differently from primary liver cancers.
At first, liver cancer may cause no symptoms, but later you can:
Other symptoms may include:
Many other health problems have the same kinds of symptoms, so you may not find out you have liver cancer for a long time.
Doctors may do:
Liver biopsy (putting a needle through your skin into your liver to take out a small piece of tissue to look at under a microscope)
Surgery to remove a bigger piece of tissue to examine
If the cancer is found early, doctors may remove it with surgery. Much less often, they take out the whole liver and replace it with a piece of healthy liver from another person (liver transplantation).
Other treatments for primary liver cancer include:
Heating or freezing the tumor with probes passed through the skin into the tumor
Injecting medicines or alcohol into the tumor
Targeting powerful x-rays at the tumor (radiation therapy)
Liver cancer is often found after it has grown and spread, and sometimes these treatments don’t work well. In such cases, medicines and other treatments are given to relieve pain and other symptoms.
It doesn't usually help to do surgery to remove metastatic liver cancer. Your doctor will likely recommend chemotherapy. The chemotherapy is usually given in your veins (IV). Sometimes the doctor will put a long IV tube up an artery in your leg and into your liver. That IV can deliver chemotherapy right to the tumor.
You can lower the risk of getting primary liver cancer by:
Getting tested for hepatitis B and C and taking medicine to treat it
Not drinking too much alcohol
Watching your weight
If you have hepatitis B or C or a lot of scarring in the liver (cirrhosis), your doctor may do blood tests and ultrasound to check for liver cancer even if you have no symptoms.