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Liver Cancer

What Makes the Liver So Important?

The liver is a large organ located in the upper right side of the abdomen, where it is found mostly underneath the ribs. It plays a very important role in maintaining the body's overall health. Most of the blood leaving the intestines travels through the liver, where it is filtered of both toxic chemicals and bacteria. The liver uses nutrients in the blood to provide energy for the body by storing and releasing sugars. It is also the main source of proteins necessary for many bodily activities such as normal blood clotting, growth, and nutrition. In addition, the liver creates bile, a fluid that is important for digestion. It is made by liver cells called hepatocytes and is then carried in tubes (the bile ducts) directly into the intestine or into the gallbladder, where it is stored until we eat. When these tubes are blocked for some reason, the bile backs up into the bloodstream, causing a yellow tinge to the eyes, mouth, and skin, and darkening of the urine; this is called jaundice.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/20/2015

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Liver Cancer Symptoms

Early liver cancer often doesn't cause symptoms. When the cancer grows larger, people may notice one or more of these common symptoms:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen on the right side
  • A lump or a feeling of heaviness in the upper abdomen
  • Swollen abdomen (bloating)
  • Loss of appetite and feelings of fullness
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness or feeling very tired
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellow skin and eyes, pale stools, and dark urine from jaundice
  • Fever

These symptoms may be caused by liver cancer or other health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should tell your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

National Cancer Institute

Medical Dictionary