Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment for Liver Cancer
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, located in the upper right side of the abdomen behind the lower ribs. The liver is responsible for filtering harmful substances from the blood, producing bile that helps in the digestion of fats, and the liver is also important in storing sugar used for the body’s energy. Cancer that metastasizes, or spreads, to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver. It is important to distinguish where the cancer started because the kind of cancer is named after the organ in which it began, for example, metastatic colon cancer describes cancer that began in the colon and spread to the liver. Treatment is determined by where the cancer started.
There are two types of primary liver cancer, which means that the cancer starts in the liver: hepatocellular carcinoma (cancer) or cholangiocarcinoma. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary liver cancer although it is still quite rare in the United States. Incidence is rising because of hepatitis C virus infection. Liver cancer is more common in men than women, and among Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Watch this video featuring Dr. Sean Cleary, a liver surgeon at Mayo Clinic, to learn more about the risk factors, the symptoms, how doctors diagnose liver cancer, and what treatment options are available for liver cancer.