Skip Navigation

Liver Cancer Library

Learn about Liver Cancer

Primary liver cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the liver. Cancer that forms in other parts of the body and spreads to the liver is not primary liver cancer. The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It has two lobes and fills the upper right side of the abdomen inside the rib cage. The main functions of the liver include the following:

  • to make bile to help digest fat that comes from food
  • to store glycogen (sugar), which the body uses for energy
  • to filter harmful substances from the blood so they can be passed from the body in stools and urine

Types of liver cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma and bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) are the main types of adult primary liver cancer.

Most adult primary liver cancers are hepatocellular carcinomas. This type of liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

Primary liver cancer can occur in both adults and children. However, treatment for children is different than treatment for adults. For more information, see Childhood Liver Cancer.

Signs and symptoms of liver cancer

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by adult primary liver cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • a hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage
  • discomfort in the upper abdomen on the right side
  • a swollen abdomen
  • pain near the right shoulder blade or in the back
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • easy bruising or bleeding
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite or feelings of fullness after eating a small meal
  • weight loss for no known reason
  • pale, chalky bowel movements and dark urine
  • fever

Featured Resources

View more featured content

Frequently Used Liver Cancer Chemotherapy Regimens

View our complete regimen index

More Resources

Navigating Care is a full community of cancer survivors, caregivers, professionals and friends & family who support one another, share their experiences, discuss relevant topics and contribute helpful resources.

Specific Facts for Your Diagnosis

Learn about treatment options and managing side effects from experts.

Get Support on Your Cancer Journey

Connect with thousands of members with your diagnosis and learn from their experiences.