early warning signs of liver cancer

Liver Cancer Symptoms

Primary liver cancer typically does not cause symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms do appear, they can vary greatly among individuals. As the tumor grows, it may cause a range of symptoms, including:

General Symptoms

  • Unintended Weight Loss: Significant weight loss without trying can be an early sign.
  • Abdominal Pain: Pain in the right side of the upper abdomen or around the right shoulder blade.
  • Loss of Appetite: A noticeable decrease in the desire to eat.
  • Abdominal Swelling or Bloating: The abdomen may appear swollen or feel bloated.
  • Feeling of Fullness: A sensation of fullness after eating a small meal.
  • Hard Lump: A hard lump may be felt below the ribs on the right side.
  • Fatigue and Weakness: Persistent tiredness or general weakness.
  • Nausea or Vomiting: Frequent nausea or episodes of vomiting.
  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. This condition is caused by high levels of bilirubin, a yellow pigment resulting from the breakdown of red blood cells. Normally, bilirubin is processed by the liver and excreted through the bile ducts. Excess bilirubin indicates liver or bile duct malfunction.
  • Itching: Excess bilirubin can cause itchy skin.
  • Pale Stools: Stools may appear pale or clay-colored.
  • Dark Urine: Urine may become darker than usual.
  • Swollen Veins on the Abdomen: Prominent veins on the abdomen may be visible.
  • Worsening of Hepatitis or Cirrhosis: Symptoms can intensify if the person already has hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Certain types of liver cancer produce hormones that can lead to additional symptoms:

  • High Blood-Calcium Levels: This can cause constipation, nausea, or confusion.
  • Low Blood-Sugar Levels: Low blood sugar can result in tiredness or fainting.
  • Hormonal Changes in Men: Men may experience enlarged breasts or shrinking of the testicles.
  • High Red-Blood Cell Count: This can cause redness in the face.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean a person has liver cancer, but they should be discussed with a doctor as they could indicate other health problems.

In summary

It’s important to recognize that early detection and diagnosis are crucial for effective treatment of liver cancer. Regular check-ups and monitoring for those at risk can help catch the disease in its early stages. Risk factors include chronic hepatitis B or C infection, cirrhosis, and a family history of liver cancer. Lifestyle changes, such as reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding exposure to known carcinogens, can also lower the risk of developing liver cancer.

Discuss any persistent or concerning symptoms with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate course of action and ensure early intervention if necessary

A Quick Review

Primary liver cancer often shows no symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms appear, they include unintended weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice, and hormone-related changes. Early detection is key for effective treatment, and regular check-ups are vital for those at risk


What are the early signs of primary liver cancer?

Primary liver cancer often doesn’t show symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do appear, they can include unintended weight loss, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. As the cancer progresses, more specific signs like jaundice, swelling in the abdomen, and a hard lump below the ribs may develop.

How can jaundice be a symptom of liver cancer?

Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, occurs due to high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Normally, bilirubin is processed by the liver and excreted. In liver cancer, the liver’s ability to process bilirubin is impaired, leading to its buildup and the subsequent development of jaundice.

Are there any hormonal symptoms associated with liver cancer?

Yes, certain types of liver cancer can produce hormones that lead to unusual symptoms. These may include high blood-calcium levels causing constipation or confusion, low blood-sugar levels resulting in tiredness or fainting, and hormonal changes in men such as enlarged breasts or shrinking testicles.

Should I be concerned about liver cancer if I have hepatitis or cirrhosis?

Individuals with chronic hepatitis B or C, or cirrhosis, are at a higher risk of developing liver cancer. It’s important for people with these conditions to have regular check-ups and monitoring for early signs of liver cancer, as early detection is crucial for effective treatment.

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