Liver Cancer: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Malignant tumors of the liver are most commonly metastases, or areas of distant spread, from tumors that arise elsewhere in the body. These tumors are not true liver cancers; instead they are named by their site of origin, such as lung cancer metastatic to the liver. True liver cancers are malignancies that arise in the cells of the liver. Symptoms of liver cancer arise most commonly in the later stages of the disease and include

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.

Causes of liver cancer

The exact cause of liver cancer is unknown. There are some risk factors though. These include alcoholism, infection with the hepatitis B or C virus (HBV or HCV), diabetes, scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver, and exposures to certain toxins.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/30/2017

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