Liver cancer occurs when the organ’s cells develop mutations in its DNA – the genetic code that provides chemical instructions for the body. This can result in cells to grow uncontrollably, eventually forming a cancerous tumour.
Feeling pain in a certain body part can be an early indication of the condition.
If you have pain in your upper abdomen or stomach, health officials advise you to see a doctor.
Symptoms of liver cancer tend to occur during the more advanced stages – whereby it has grown to a big enough size to cause noticeable issues.
For one, upper abdominal pain can signify the presence of liver cancer.
Medical website Healthline points out the liver is a football-sized organ that sits in the upper right portion of the abdomen – which can explain why pain felt here is an indication of the disease.
The organ’s main function is to filter blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body.
The liver is also responsible for creating proteins for blood clotting, breaking down old and damaged red blood cells and storing extra blood sugar as glycogen.
Without a functioning liver, a person can’t survive as toxins would build-up in the body.
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The Mayo Clinic lists other possible symptoms of liver cancer. These include:
- Losing weight without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- General weakness and fatigue
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- White, chalky stools
When liver cancer is diagnosed, it means the cancer began in the cells of the liver.
More commonly, cancer spreads to the liver from other body parts (called metastases).
This occurs when cancerous cells break away from the primary site of cancer and travel through the bloodstream or lymph system to the liver.
Cancer Research UK says there are a number of risk factors for primary liver cancer.
For one, the older someone is the higher risk they have of developing cancer.
A major risk factor is having liver cirrhosis – scarring of the liver.
Liver cirrhosis can be caused by excessively drinking alcohol over a long period of time, as well as having had a long-term infection of hepatitis B or C.