Liver cancer happens when abnormal cells in the liver grow and multiply out of control. Your liver is the largest organ inside your belly and carries out many important functions, such as:
Each year in the United States, approximately 28,600 men and 12,660 women are diagnosed with liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, usually between 55 and 84 years of age.
A liver cancer diagnosis often begins with an observation of a growth on the liver. Generally, there are two types of growths — benign and malignant. Benign growths are non-cancerous, can be removed, are rarely life-threatening, and do not grow back. They also do not invade the tissues around them and do not spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant growths, on the other hand, are cancerous. They may be life-threatening, and even if they are removed, may still grow back. They can also spread and damage nearby tissues and organs such as the stomach or intestine and can spread to other parts of the body.
Signs and symptoms of liver cancer include the following:
Please note that these signs and symptoms can occur in many other health problems — not just liver cancer. If you notice any of these issues, your best bet is to make an appointment with your doctor right away. Based on what your doctor finds, you might get a referral to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in disorders of the digestive tract.
Treatment options for liver cancer include one or more of the following:
Caught and treated early, there’s a good chance your doctor can treat your liver cancer.
Depending upon your condition, you may be a candidate for surgery. If you aren’t, as you can see, there are many other options that you and your doctor may try if you don’t qualify for surgery. Additionally, your doctor may recommend that you consider participating in clinical trials (in other words, research studies) that are trying out new treatments for patients like you.