Liver Cancer Symptoms & Signs
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What Are the Symptoms of Liver Cancer?
Like many types of cancer, liver cancer symptoms often do not appear in the early stages. As a result, liver cancer tends to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
Because there are no widely recommended routine screening tests for liver cancer, people with a family history of the disease or other risk factors should talk with their doctor about steps they can take to monitor or reduce their risk. The National Comprehensive Cancer Center (NCCN) recommends alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood tests and ultrasounds every 6 to 12 months for people with a high risk of developing liver cancer.
Warning Signs of Liver Cancer
The symptoms of liver cancer may be different for each person and any one of these symptoms may be caused by other, benign conditions.
When present, common liver cancer symptoms may include:
- Weight loss – Not associated with changes in diet.
- Decrease in appetite – Or a feeling of fullness after a small meal.
- Nausea and vomiting – Not associated with other known conditions.
- General weakness and/or fatigue – Persistent, ongoing weakness or fatigue.
- Fever – Unrelated to other conditions.
- Pain – Occurring in the upper abdomen on the right side or near the right shoulder blade.
- Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly) – felt as a mass under the ribs on the right side.
- Enlarged spleen – felt as a mass under the ribs on the left side.
- Abdominal swelling (ascites) – Bloating or swelling in the abdomen can occur as a mass forms.
- Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and eyes. Jaundice occurs when the liver is not functioning properly.
Understanding Liver Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Many of the above mentioned symptoms are similar to other types of benign liver infections or diseases. In the case of liver cancer, the symptoms will continue to evolve and worsen as the disease advances. It is important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you have any of the above signs of liver cancer.
In rare cases, other disorders may develop as a result of liver cancer, especially in the early stages of the disease. Paraneoplastic syndromes cause symptoms in other parts of the body. Awareness of these symptoms may help with diagnosing liver cancer.
Some paraneoplastic syndromes related to liver cancer include:
- Hypercalcemia - High blood calcium levels
- Hypoglycemia - Low blood sugar levels
- Erythrocytosis - High red blood cell count
- Hypercholesterolemia - High cholesterol levels
- Gynecomastia - Breast enlargement
- Shrinking of testicles in men
NOTE: These symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. It is important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
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