Liver cancer symptoms: Nine signs you could be suffering with disease | Health | Life & Style

There are around 5,550 new cases of liver cancer in the UK each year and approximately 5,091 deaths from the disease.

Cancer Research UK said around 42 per cent of liver cancer cases in the UK are preventable.

Poor liver health can be caused by eating too much fat – which causes fatty liver, inflammation, or scar tissue caused by drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time.

Primary liver cancer is an uncommon but serious type of cancer that begins in the liver.

Some people with chronic liver disease are diagnosed before any symptoms appear through tests to check how their liver is working.

Liver cancer can be caused by alcohol abuse, having a long-term hepatitis B or hepatitis C viral infection, haemochromatosis or primary biliary cirrhosis – a long-term liver disease which damages the bile ducts in the liver.

NHS Choices said: “The exact cause of liver cancer is unknown, but most cases are associated with damage and scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis.”

“It’s also believed obesity and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of liver cancer because this can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”

The liver stores nutrient, can convert fat to energy when the body needs it and produced bile, which helps the digestion and absorption of food.

Symptoms of liver cancer include:

Unintentional weight loss

Loss of appetite

Feeling very full after eating, even if the meal was small

Feeling sick


Pain or swelling in the abdomen
The swelling in the stomach is called ascites, a build-up of fluid between the two layers of the peritoneum, a membrane lining the abdomen.

Ascites can develop if cancer has spread to the peritoneum or the liver is damaged of affected by cancer.


Jaundice is the yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes. Bilirubin is a waste product which is created when red blood cells break down. If the liver is damaged and can’t process bilirubin, it can cause the skin to develop a yellow tinge.

Itchy skin

Itchy skin is caused by waste products collecting in the skin. While doctors can prescribe tablets to stop the itching, people can only really get rid of it if the jaundice is treated and the bile ducts are unblocked. 

Itchy skin could also be a symptom of primary biliary chongalitis, a form of liver disease which affects more than 15,000 people in the UK.

Feeling tired and weak is a symptom of liver cancer.

Experts said only a small proportion of liver cancers are diagnosed at a stage where these treatments are suitable and said most people are diagnosed when the cancer has spread too far to be removed or completely destroyed.

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