What does the liver do?

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. The liver is divided into lobes and acts as a filter, cleansing the blood of harmful substances that are later passed out of the body as waste. The liver also makes bile, which helps digest fat, makes numerous proteins used by the body for many things, and stores glycogen (sugar), which provides the body with energy.

What are the stages of liver cancer?

One of the biggest concerns about cancer is whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) beyond its original location. In a process called staging, the doctor assigns a number (I through IV) to the cancer diagnosis. The higher the number, the more the cancer has spread. Cancers are also categorized by how they can be treated, i.e., whether it can be removed by surgery.

Liver cancer stages include the following:

  • Stage I: One tumor is found in the liver only.
  • Stage II: One tumor is found, but it has spread to the blood vessels, OR more than one tumor is present, but they are all smaller than 5 cm.
  • Stage III: In Stage III liver cancer, there is more than one tumor larger than 5 cm, OR the cancer has moved beyond the liver to blood vessels, another organ, or to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: the cancer has spread to other locations in the body, such as the lungs or bones, as well as blood vessels or lymph nodes.

Liver cancer may also be categorized as recurrent, if it comes back. Recurrent liver cancer could come back in the liver or anywhere else in the body.

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

Early in the development of liver disease, there may be no symptoms at all. The following signs occur when the liver swells. Please note: liver cancer is only one reason that livers can swell.

  • A lump below the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen
  • Pain near the right shoulder or on the right side of the abdomen
  • Jaundice (a disease that causes skin to yellow)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Bloating