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Causes & Symptoms

Types of Liver Cancer Causes & Symptoms
Prevention & Screening Living with Liver Cancer

Causes of Liver Cancer

The exact cause of liver cancer is not known. Risk factors for primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) include:

  • Viral hepatitis B and C
  • Alcohol
  • Cirrhosis
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Intake of anabolic steroids
  • In many patients, liver tumors result from the spread (metastasis) of another cancer to the liver through the bloodstream. Most commonly, cancer occurring in the colon, rectum, breast, or kidney may spread to the liver. In this instance, these tumors are the primary source of the liver cancer.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Many patients do not experience symptoms. Liver cancer is often discovered during routine follow-up tests for a previous cancer outside of the liver, or during diagnostic testing for the presence of cirrhosis or viral hepatitis B or C. Symptoms of liver cancer include: 

  • Pain located on the right side of the upper abdomen, the right shoulder, or the back
  • Indigestion, lack of appetite, nausea, and weight loss: These symptoms can occur when a liver tumor presses against the stomach and small intestine. Problems with digestion may also occur for complex reasons not specifically related to the location of the tumor.
  • Jaundice: Evidenced by yellow skin and eyes, dark urine, and light colored stool.
  • Fever
  • Abdominal or Leg Swelling: Abdominal fluid (ascites) can build up in patients with chronic liver disease. It may be accompanied by swelling of the legs.
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