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Liver cancer symptoms

Like many types of cancer, liver cancer symptoms often do not appear in the early stages. As a result, liver tumors tends to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Because no widely recommended routine screening tests have been developed for liver cancer, people with a family history of the disease or other risk factors should talk with their doctor about steps they can take to monitor or reduce their risk. The National Comprehensive Cancer Center recommends alpha-fetoprotein blood tests and ultrasounds every six to 12 months for people with a high risk of cancer of the liver.

Early warning signs of liver cancer

The symptoms of liver cancer may differ for each person, and any one of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Some common early warning signs of liver cancer include:

Common symptoms of cancer that develops in the liver include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen on the right side or near the right shoulder blade
  • Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) felt as a mass under the ribs on the right side
  • Abdominal swelling (ascites) or bloating in the abdomen that develops as a mass
  • Jaundice, which appears as yellowing of the skin and eyes and occurs when the liver is not functioning properly

Other signs and symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • Weight loss not associated with changes in diet
  • Decrease in appetite or a feeling of fullness after a small meal
  • Nausea and vomiting not associated with other known conditions
  • General weakness and/or fatigue that is persistent, ongoing weakness or fatigue
  • Fever that is unrelated to other conditions
  • Enlarged spleen felt as a mass under the ribs on the left side

Many symptoms of liver tumors may be similar to signs of other types of benign liver infections or diseases. In the case of liver cancer, the symptoms will continue to evolve and worsen as the tumor grows and the disease advances. It is important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you have any of the above signs of liver cancer.

In rare cases, other disorders may develop as a result of liver cancer, especially in the early stages of the disease. Paraneoplastic syndromes cause symptoms in other parts of the body. Awareness of these symptoms may help with diagnosing liver cancer.  Some paraneoplastic syndromes related to liver cancer include:

  • Hypercalcemia: High blood calcium levels
  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels
  • Erythrocytosis: High red blood cell count
  • Hypercholesterolemia: High cholesterol levels
  • Gynecomastia: Breast enlargement
  • Shrinking of testicles in men

Learn more about liver cancer treatments

Next topic: What are the types of liver cancer?

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