Liver Cancer Signs, Symptoms and Types

Liver cancer can be very hard to treat in more advanced stages because many patients don’t notice signs or symptoms.

If you’re at high-risk for liver cancer or have symptoms, talk to your doctor. At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, we have a team of experts dedicated to liver cancer research, diagnosis and treatment. Make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable doctors today.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer is on the rise in the United States. More people than ever before are being diagnosed with cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis C and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. See Liver Cancer Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention for more information on these conditions and how to lower your risk.

Liver cancer symptoms often do not appear in early stages of the disease. It’s also impossible to feel small tumors because the liver is shielded by the ribs. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Pain near the right shoulder blade
  • Swelling in the abdomen or fluid buildup
  • Swollen veins visible under the abdominal skin
  • Enlarged liver and/or spleen
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • White, chalky stools
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling full after eating a small meal
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Nausea and vomiting

Symptoms of end-stage liver disease may include:

  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Intense itching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Recurrent jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
  • Swelling in your abdomen and legs

If you experience these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have liver cancer. However, if you have symptoms that worry you, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Types of Liver Cancer

  • Primary liver cancer: Also called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or hepatoma, Primary liver cancer is the most common type of liver tumor – about 75% of all diagnoses. HCC starts in liver cells called hepatocellular cells. Most HCC is from a hepatitis B or C infection, or cirrhosis of the liver
  • Fibrolamellar HCC: A rare subtype of HCC that can be more responsive to treatment than other types of liver cancer
  • Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinomas): Occurs in the small, tube-like bile ducts in the liver that carry bile to the gallbladder. Cholangiocarcinomas make up 10% to 20% of liver cancers
  • Angiosarcoma: This rare form of liver cancer starts in the liver’s blood vessels. It’s fast-growing and usually diagnosed at an advanced stage
  • Hepatoblastoma: A very rare cancer almost always found in children younger than 4 years old
  • Secondary liver cancer (liver metastasis): Develops when cancer from another part of the body spreads to the liver, usually from colon or colorectal cancer