Liver Cancer
(Hepatocellular Carcinoma)

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What is liver cancer?

Liver cancer is a condition that happens when normal cells in the liver become abnormal and grow out of control into cancer.

Malignant or cancerous cells that arise out of liver cells are called hepatocellular carcinoma, and cancer that arises in the ducts of the liver is called cholangiocarcinoma.

What is metastatic liver cancer?

Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from the place where it first started to another place in the body. Metastatic cancer in the liver is a condition where cancer from other organs has spread to the liver. Here the liver cells are basically normal. Metastatic cancer has the same name and same type of cancer cells as the original cancer. The most common cancers that spread to the liver are breast, colon, bladder, kidney, ovary, pancreas, stomach, uterus, and lungs. Metastatic liver cancer is a rare condition that occurs when cancer originates in the liver and spreads to other organs in the body.

Some people with metastatic tumors do not have symptoms. Their metastases are found by X-rays or other tests. Abdominal swelling or jaundice (yellowing of the skin) can indicate cancer has spread to the liver.

What causes liver cancer?

Most people who get liver cancer get it in the setting of chronic liver disease (long-term liver damage called cirrhosis), which scars the liver and increases the risk for liver cancer. Conditions that cause cirrhosis are alcohol use/abuse, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

The causes of liver cancer may be linked to environmental, dietary, or lifestyle factors. In Nov. 2014, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, found that long-term exposure to triclosan, a common ingredient in soaps and detergents, causes liver fibrosis and cancer in laboratory mice. Although triclosan has not been proven to cause human liver cancer, it is currently under scrutiny by the FDA to determine whether it has negative health impacts.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/18/2014

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Liver Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms of liver cancer arise most commonly in the later stages of the disease and include weight loss, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and abdominal swelling. These symptoms are fairly nonspecific and can occur with cancers in other locations as well as some chronic diseases. Other symptoms of liver cancer include a yellowish discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), enlarged and tender liver, and chalky, white-colored stools.