Liver cancer: symptoms. Can the disease be defeated?

Liver cancer is one of the most serious diseases that occur in the digestive system. The disease is characterized by the formation of a malignant tumor. The main factors that can trigger the development of this disease include chronic viral hepatitis and the use of products containing aflatoxin.

Liver Oncology: General Information

Main symptoms

In this case, cancer may manifest itself as follows:

  • there are feelings of pain and heaviness in the hypochondrium on the right side;
  • weight is reduced;
  • jaundice develops;
  • fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity.

Diagnosis and therapy

The disease is diagnosed by determining the concentration of AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) in the blood, as well as on the basis of data obtained during the biopsy of education (taking part of the tumor for further study using a microscope) and computed tomography.

liver cancer symptomsCancer therapy directly depends on the stage of the disease, and on the general well-being of the patient. Most often, treatment consists of three main methods: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Liver affected by cancer: causes

The exact causes of the disease today experts have not been identified. But it was determined that there are some factors that contribute to the formation of malignant tumors in the liver tissues. Consider the main ones.

Viral Hepatitis

Scientists have proven that pathogens of viral hepatitis B and C of a chronic nature provoke the development of mutations at the genetic level in the liver cells. This subsequently transforms them into malignant tumors. The longer the hepatitis lasts, the higher the risk of developing liver cancer.

Cirrhosis of the liver

With this ailment, the liver cells are replaced by thickened connective tissue. In this case, the functions of the body are completely lost. In general, liver cirrhosis begins its development against the background of chronic hepatitis B, C or D, drinking alcohol-containing beverages for a long time,some medical drugs. As a result, the likelihood that there will be signs of cancer increases several times.


This substance is produced by the action of the fungus Aspergillus flavus (Aspergillus flavus), which multiplies in products (eg, rice, soy, wheat) that have been stored for a long time in a humid warm environment. Subsequently, after their use, often there are signs of liver cancer.

signs of oncology

Types of Disease

The disease is divided into two types:

1. Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular). Usually develops from full or immature cells of the liver or its bile ducts and vessels.

2. Secondary. It often develops on the background of oncological processes in other organs: the stomach, large intestine, pancreas and others. This type of ailment is called metastatic. Such liver cancer causes metastasis of tumors penetrating from other organs.

Symptoms of the disease

How does liver cancer manifest? Symptoms mainly occur against the background of chronic ailments of this organ. The main symptom of liver cancer is the occurrence or increase of pain in the abdomen.As a rule, it signals a rather large size of the tumor or its spread beyond the limits of one organ. In addition, there are the following signs of liver cancer:

1. Weight in the hypochondrium on the right side.

2. Increased temperature (more than 37.5 ºС) for a long period of time, which cannot be explained by other reasons.

3. The appearance of dropsy (ascites).

4. Acquisition of skin yellowish color by scleras.

5. Weight loss.

6. Permanent weakness.

7. Lack of appetite.

8. Bloating.

Some signs of liver cancer can also occur with other illnesses, so in any case, a thorough examination is necessary for these symptoms.

How to diagnose liver cancer

liver cancer signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the disease should be the reason for the indispensable visit to the attending physician. He must prescribe the patient the necessary examination and only on the basis of the results obtained to determine a reliable diagnosis. Consider the main methods of detecting liver cancer.

AFP concentration measurement

The simplest option is to measure the concentration of alpha-fetoprotein in the blood.This substance is produced by undeveloped liver cells during the development of the fetus in the womb. In the event of cancer, they completely lose the opportunity to develop and produce AFP at the same time. Despite the level of this substance, which is within the normal range, there is no guarantee of the absence of the disease.


Ultrasound examination of the liver is a relatively inexpensive and convenient diagnostic method. During it, the structure of the liver is studied, its density and the signs of oncology are determined in case of their presence.

CT scan

In the course of tomography using computer technology can detect even the smallest tumors that are invisible by ultrasound. The procedure is carried out either with the use of intravenous contrast material, which allows to thoroughly examine the location of the vessels of the liver, or without it. During CT, the structure of the organ is carefully studied. At the same time receive images of the thinnest sections of the liver and reveal the smallest tumors.


This is a magnetic resonance imaging method, which, unlike computerized,It gives an opportunity to study the structure of allegedly cancer-affected areas of the liver from different plans (angles). But it is carried out in the same way as the previous one.


This method allows you to most reliably determine liver cancer, the prognosis of the course and outcome of the disease. This is a procedure in which a small part of the tumor is extracted and further examined using a microscope. A biopsy is usually performed with a long, thin needle inserted through the skin into the liver. When this is done, the control of entering the tumor area with an ultrasound machine is performed.

signs of liver cancer


It is worth noting that liver cancer is very variable. Symptoms of a disease depend on its stage. To determine it, additional studies are made: scanning, x-rays and others. Consider the signs and symptoms of liver cancer at different stages. Each degree of the disease is characterized by a different size of the tumor and the scale of its localization.

First degree

In this case, the tumor is formed from liver cells, structures or metastases of other organs. The second variant of oncology is observed much more often than the first.Symptoms of liver cancer of the first degree does not have any special, specific manifestations. Often there are signs similar to other ailments of the digestive system. In some cases, patients with oncology feel weakness, drops in body temperature, weight loss unreasonable by any factors. At this stage of liver cancer there are still no signs of its presence in the body, so it is impossible to determine it without special diagnostic methods. Neoplasms of no more than 2 centimeters are detected by ultrasound or MRI. At the same time, vessels of the circulatory system are not involved in the tumor process.

Main symptoms

1. The aching pain of a chronic nature in the hypochondrium on the right side. However, their occurrence does not depend on the time of day and meals.

2. The sclera and skin cover acquire a yellowish tint.

3. The liver increases. In the subcostal area on the right stands its part. At the same time in this area there is a feeling of heaviness.

4. Constipation lasts for more than two weeks, alternating with diarrhea.

5. There is an aversion to meat dishes. Consider this symptom should be, excluding gastric ulcer.

6Urine loses color, becomes transparent.

liver cancer symptoms

Second degree

At this stage, liver cancer has the following symptoms:

  1. Pulling pain in hypochondrium on the right.
  2. Persistent elevated body temperature without pronounced dynamics (about 37.5-37.9 ° C).
  3. The perversion of taste preferences - the desire to use inedible products, the rejection of meat dishes.
  4. Loss of appetite.
  5. Weight loss.

Characteristic symptoms

Signs of second-degree liver cancer are not specific and are often found in cases of other diseases. The clinical picture of a given degree of oncology in patients may manifest itself in different ways. But there is one symptom observed in about 90% of cases - a significant increase in the liver, up to a pathological size. At the same time, the edge of the body acquires a dense consistency and acts in the hypochondrium region. In lean patients in a standing position, this is clearly expressed. Germination of a tumor into the vessels of the blood system can occur, which is fraught with a breakthrough of bile in them.

Third degree

In this stage of liver cancer, the symptoms are clearer than in the early stages. We list the clinical signs.

1. Continuously enhanced:

  • weight loss;
  • deterioration of the general condition;
  • psychological disorders;
  • decrease in the activity of physiological processes;
  • anorexia (approximately half the patients);
  • vomiting, nausea;
  • change in taste;
  • shortness of breath, yellowness of the skin.

2. General weakness, disability. In most cases, the patient is not able to perform basic household work.

3. Clearly expressed soreness of the right hypochondrium area during physical stresses and during palpation of the epigastric region.

4. Enlarging the liver to pathological size.

5. Constant feeling of heaviness in the right hypochondrium.

liver cancer symptoms

Classification 3 degrees of liver cancer

Given the prevalence of the malignant process in nearby tissues and organs, liver cancer of grade 3 can be divided into three stages.

1. Stage 3A. It is characterized by the presence of a group of neoplasms having a large size (more than 5 centimeters in diameter) or a tumor covering the portal and hepatic veins.

2. Stage 3B. It is characterized by the spread of oncological process on the outer shell of the liver or another organ.

3. Stage 3C.It is characterized by lesions of the lymph nodes nearby the liver. In this case, education can be both single and multiple.

The third degree of liver cancer is diagnosed in about a third of patients with this disease. The reasons for this are non-specific symptoms in earlier periods of the disease and, consequently, untimely treatment of patients for treatment.

Fourth degree

Liver cancer stage 4 has absolutely non-specific signs for this disease. The same symptoms accompany many other ailments of the intestines and stomach. A neoplasm that has not yet sprouted into the blood vessels and biliary tract may not appear at all for quite a long time. In case of any long-term unsuccessful condition of the stomach and intestines, a doctor should be visited for a thorough examination, especially if the patient is at risk. In the fourth stage, liver cancer has the following signs and symptoms:

  • pain in the hypochondrium on the right side;
  • an increase in the size of the liver;
  • sharp weight loss;
  • increase in abdomen with general thinness;
  • aversion to meat dishes of persistent character;
  • increased body temperature for a long time;
  • disturbances in the hormonal system;
  • yellowish shade of the sclera and skin.

Is liver cancer treated?

Liver oncology is included in the top five most common cancer pathologies in the world and in the top three in terms of mortality. Every year, 600 thousand new cases of illness are detected throughout our planet. Risk factors for liver cancer are fatty organ metamorphosis, hepatitis B and C, and abuse of beverages containing alcohol. How many live with liver cancer? Can I beat him? These are the main questions of the patients. Successful treatment can provide early detection of the disease. Usually, surgery performed at an early stage of liver cancer is effective - more than 75% of patients live for at least another 5 years after that. Is it possible to cure this disease? Yes, but under the condition of taking into account all the factors necessary for predicting recovery. This is a person's age, stage of cancer, and related diseases. In addition, it is necessary to have a desire to recover from the patient himself.

Features of diagnosis of liver cancer

In order to cure liver cancer, you need to correctly confirm this diagnosis and identify its degree. To do this, apply certain methods that have already been mentioned earlier. Consider some of their features. Liver biopsy may not be used in all cases. It is a rather painful procedure, and there is a risk of the tumor spreading along the needle insertion path used for its implementation. A blood test taken to determine the concentration of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is prescribed to patients with hepatitis C and other liver pathologies every 6 months. This is done in order to detect liver cancer at an early stage if it occurs.

liver cancer metastasis

Surgical treatment

How is liver cancer treated? Treatment can be carried out with the help of such operational methods of modern medicine as transplantation and resection. But it should be borne in mind that the effectiveness of each of them depends on the professionalism of the doctors (surgeons, resuscitators, hepatologists, anesthesiologists) and the level of the clinic chosen by the patient. Therapy of liver cancer by surgical resection is a method of removing a tissue site affected by oncology.It can be performed only if the tumor cells are localized in any one part of the organ when the other is healthy. Liver transplantation is ideal in case of damage to both lobes of the organ. At the same time, oncology should not affect other tissues. Other organs should also not be affected by cancer.

Non-surgical therapy

Is it possible to treat liver cancer in late stages if surgery is not possible? Non-surgical treatment, which allows to improve the quality of life of a patient who is threatened with a lethal outcome, is to control the growth of a malignant tumor. But often it is not possible to defeat liver cancer in the later stages. The patient's life span can thus be extended a maximum of several months.

Non-surgical treatment methods


Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is a method of treating liver cancer, during which a catheter is inserted into the artery of the leg and gently push it to the vessel of the circulatory system in the area of ​​malignancy. A specially designed chemical is then injected. As a result, the arrest of a blood vessel that feeds the tumor occurs.After this procedure, liver cancer symptoms in the form of pain and fever manifests as before. The patient may complain about these phenomena, as during the course of TACE, the area of ​​healthy tissue surrounding the neoplasm is also damaged. Tumors that have reached the size of more than 3 centimeters are usually not completely destroyed.

Oral chemotherapy

Currently, some newer drugs are used, which make it possible to prolong and improve the lives of patients with liver cancer. This is the best method that can be used when surgical intervention is not possible, when cancer of metastases has penetrated into other organs. However, even in the case of the use of necessary drugs, only half of the patients have a longer life expectancy of two years or more. The rest is overtaking death within 10-12 months.


Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a method of treating liver cancer, during which a metal rod that burns through the skin is injected into the tumor through the skin. In this case, healthy cells that are in close proximity to the neoplasm are damaged.It is impossible to destroy a tumor with a size of more than 3 centimeters in this way.

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