(Malignant Hepatoma; Hepatocellular Carcinoma; Primary Liver Cancer)
The liver is located in the right side of the abdomen. It stores and metabolizes nutrients. It also filters and stores blood. Liver cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the liver.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably, a mass of tissue forms. This is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. These tumors can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
The cause of liver cancer is not known. Research shows that certain risk factors are associated with the disease.
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Factors that may increase you chance of liver cancer include:
- Sex: male
- Age: 40 and older
- Infection with the hepatitis B virus or the hepatitis C virus
- Formation of scar tissue in the liver, also known as cirrhosis
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to an infectious agent, such as a liver fluke, which are found in southern Pacific countries
- Hemochromatosis—abnormal collection of iron in body tissues
- Hereditary metabolic disorders such as alpha-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency and tyrosinemia
Exposure to certain chemicals:
- Aflatoxin—a substance made by a fungus that often infects wheat, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and rice in tropical and subtropical regions
- Vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide—chemicals that are strictly controlled
- Anabolic steroids—male hormones sometimes given for medical reasons, but also taken by athletes to increase strength
- Arsenic—a toxic chemical
Symptoms of liver cancer in the early stages are vague. They often go unnoticed.
Liver cancer can cause the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Dark urine
- Excessive itchiness of the skin
- Confusion and increased sleepiness
- Yellowing of the skin and/or the whites of the eye
These may also be caused by other, less serious health