Symptoms and Signs of Liver Cancer

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Liver Cancer

Liver cancer (hepatoma) is a general term that refers to both primary (liver cells) and secondary (metastatic cells from other organs) that form abnormal collections (tumors) of cells in the liver. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of liver cancer(s) are non-specific and are as follows: weakness, fatigue, weight loss. As the disease progresses, other signs and symptoms may occur; jaundice, ascities (increased abdominal size), dark urine with still later symptoms of internal and/or GI bleeding and mental status changes. Liver cancers are frequently diagnosed incidentally when the patient is being evaluated for other problems.

The causes of both primary and metastatic liver cells to become abnormal cells and form tumors are not known. However, there are risk factors that, when present, increase the chances of liver cancer development. Two problems, alcohol abuse (cirrhosis) and viral infections (hepatitis B and C) are the most common. Other risk factors include fatty liver disease, diabetes, genetic diseases like hemochromatosis and aflatoxin (mold in foods like grains and peanuts).

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