Protect Your Health by Recognizing These Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer often goes undiagnosed until it has reached the advanced stages because many of the earliest symptoms are quite mild. The liver is the largest internal organ in your body, and it plays an important role in breaking down nutrients and filtering out toxins before they hit your bloodstream. When cancerous tumors begin to grow, you may experience these signs and symptoms.
While most people welcome shedding a few pounds, this is one of the first signs of cancer in the liver. However, it is important to note that losing weight occurs rapidly and without a person making any effort at all. As a general rule, losing more than 10 pounds in a month without trying is considered enough weight loss to be concerning enough to have checked out by a doctor.
Loss of Appetite
Cancer causes the liver to become enlarged, which affects your other bodily processes. You may discover yourself losing appetite that affects your diet. You may suddenly no longer find your favorite foods appetizing, or you may forget to eat. It is also common for a person to feel extremely full after only a small meal. However, it is important to continue to eat a nutritious diet because this will help your body fight if you do end up with a cancer diagnosis.
The liver produces a substance called bilirubin that is created when the organ breaks down red blood cells. A liver with cancer is inefficient during this process, which will cause bilirubin to build up in a person’s system. High bilirubin causes jaundice. This is most noticeable as a yellow tint to the skin and whites of the eyes. A physician can also test for high levels of bilirubin in your system, which is indicative of liver problems.
Enlargement of the Liver
Your liver rests on the right side of your body, just below your rib cage. While the early stages of cancer may not change its size, a physician may be able to feel a larger mass once the cancer has advanced to the later stages. It is also important to understand that the liver may feel bumpy or have a different texture compared to a healthy organ.
Nausea and Vomiting
A larger liver combined with more toxins circulating through your system can lead to abdominal discomfort. While some people simply feel nauseated, others experience frequent vomiting. This can occur shortly after eating, or you may feel sick between meals.
Abdominal or Shoulder Pain
People with liver cancer sometimes experience referred pain in other areas of your body. For example, you may feel sharp or throbbing pain in your right shoulder blade. Abdominal pain in the liver region is also common, and it may be mistaken for other conditions such as gallbladder stones.
Swelling in the Abdomen
Although weight loss is a common symptom of cancer, some people miss it because their abdomen swells. This is due to fluid retention in your body caused by the liver’s inability to function properly. Bloating can sometimes be normal after a large meal or due to hormonal fluctuations, yet excessive swelling should always be cause for concern in the absence of obvious causes.
Cancer of the liver slowly progresses through several different stages, and getting treated early makes a major difference in your prognosis. Since many of these symptoms can be due to other health conditions, it is important to have a qualified professional assess your health through a complete physical exam. By being proactive and recognizing what is not normal for your body, you can take action to protect yourself from this serious form of cancer.