6 Hidden Liver Cancer Symptoms You MUST Know!

Yellow Eyes and Skin? Know the 6 Sneaky Liver Cancer Symptoms! - DoctorOnCall

Liver cancer is a type of cancer that can be difficult to detect in its early stages. Often, by the time it’s found, the cancer cells have already spread beyond the liver.

It’s essential to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms of liver cancer so that you can recognise them if they appear in yourself or your loved ones.

What Does the Liver Do?

The liver is a vital organ that performs many essential functions in the body. It helps filter toxins from the blood and is also responsible for producing bile to aid digestion. Additionally, it plays a key role in storing glucose as energy for later use.

What is Liver Cancer?

There are two types of liver cancer, primary liver cancer, and secondary liver cancer. Primary liver cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the liver itself. 

Secondary liver cancer is a type of cancer that begins in another part of the body and then spreads to the liver.

What Are the Hidden Signs of Liver Cancer?

Knowing the symptoms of liver cancer can help you detect the illness sooner and start treatment

Sometimes, the most obvious signs are easy to overlook. Here are a few of the subtle signs that you need to know.

#1 Unusual Swelling and Abdominal Pain

If you’ve been experiencing abdominal swelling and pain on the right side of your body, this could be a sign of liver cancer.

The pressure caused by the tumour can put a strain on nerves and nearby organs, leading to pain.

However, it is important to note that other issues—such as gallstone blockages or stomach ulcers—can also cause pain in this area.

#2 Itchy Skin

The accumulation of bilirubin that causes the skin to turn yellow can also cause itching. Bilirubin is a waste product from the death of red blood cells that is normally broken down by the liver.

Usually, sufferers do not consider itchy skin a serious symptom. However, the itching associated with liver disease is usually quite severe, to the extent that the quality of life is also affected.

#3 Getting Yellow Skin and Eyes (Jaundice)

One of the telltale signs of liver cancer is a yellow discolouration of your skin and eyes, also known as jaundice. 

This condition occurs when there is an excess buildup of bilirubin in the body.

When something is wrong with the liver, such as in the case of liver cancer, it can’t process this bilirubin, leading to a yellow tint to the skin and eyes.

#4 Finding it Hard to Breathe

Another sign of liver cancer is when fluid builds up in the abdomen (also known as ascites), which can cause bloating.

This condition can be caused by liver cancer, and it can push up the diaphragm muscle involved in the breathing mechanism. 

As a result, those who experience this are also at risk of developing symptoms of shortness of breath.

#5 Losing Weight Without Even Trying

Otis Brawley, from the American Cancer Society, states that weight loss is often an unexpected symptom of cancer and other diseases. 

When the body faces a serious health issue, it tends to go into survival mode, where it sheds excess weight without any effort.

If a person loses more than 5% of their body weight in 6 to 12 months without trying, they should go see their doctor as soon as possible to get checked out.

#6 Shoulder Pain

One of the liver cancer signs that is often overlooked is a dull, throbbing pain in the right shoulder. As mentioned before, liver cancer can cause an enlarged liver, which then compresses nerves located in the abdomen and stimulates other nerves found in the shoulder area.

This leads to referred pain, which can manifest as either a sharp stabbing pain or a dull throbbing one. In some cases, the pain can spread to other areas nearby, such as the shoulder blade and back.

Complications of Liver Cancer

Developing liver cancer can cause complications from tumour pressure on the bile ducts, liver dysfunction, and hormones produced by cancerous cells.

  • Anaemia: Results from bleeding due to a lack of clotting factors in the blood.

  • Bile duct obstruction: This causes severe and constant pain in several parts of the body.

  • Bleeding: This occurs when cancer overtakes a large portion of the liver, preventing it from producing enough clotting factors.

  • Portal hypertension: This can lead to varicose veins, which rupture and result in massive bleeding.

  • High blood calcium: This is a common symptom of advanced-stage liver cancer.

Liver Cancer Screening and Treatment Options

Regular liver cancer screenings are crucial, especially for individuals who are at a higher risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, screening methods include:

  • Imaging tests such as CT and MRI

  • Blood tests that measure liver enzymes in the blood

  • Biopsies where a doctor may take samples from the liver for further testing

Surgery is frequently used to treat liver cancer if it is detected early enough. If the tumour is small enough, it will be removed, or a liver resection will be performed, which involves removing the affected portion of the liver. Other treatments that may be recommended include:

  • Chemotherapy

  • Radiation therapy

  • Targeted drug therapies

In advanced cases, doctors may recommend a liver transplant. This involves removing the affected liver and replacing it with a healthy one from a donor.

Bottom Line

Liver cancer is a serious condition, and it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with it. 

Regular exams and check-ups are key for early detection and treatment, so if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, talk to your doctor right away.

Remember, the earlier the detection, the better the outcome, so taking proactive steps towards prevention and early detection can make a significant difference in your health and overall well-being.

*The free doctor consult initiative is supported and fully funded by DoctorOnCall