Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Liver Cancer

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 3/2014
Symptoms and Signs

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ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

People with HCC may experience no symptoms, particularly when the tumor is detected early as part of a screening program. When symptoms or signs do occur, they include:

  • Pain, especially at the top right of the abdominal area, or near the right shoulder blade or in the back
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A hard lump under the ribs on the right side of the body, which could be the tumor or a sign that the liver has increased in size
  • Weakness or fatigue

When HCC is diagnosed, some people will already know that they have cirrhosis and will be receiving care from a doctor. Some symptoms experienced by patients with HCC may be caused by cirrhosis rather than the tumor. These symptoms include abdominal swelling from ascites (fluid accumulation) and needing more diuretics (water tablets) to control the fluid accumulation. Hepatic encephalopathy (mental confusion) and bleeding from the esophagus or stomach, or any worsening of the condition, may also indicate cancer.

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.  

© 2005-2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.

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