Your liver is the largest organ in your body cavity and is responsible for making key proteins, metabolizing fats and carbohydrates, and eliminating biochemical waste and toxins from the bloodstream. Although liver cancer can originate in the liver itself, it is more commonly metastatic – meaning it began somewhere else in the body such as the breast, lung, colon or pancreas. In the United States, primary liver cancer afflicts 21,000 men and 7,000 women annually, most over the age of 65 years old. Liver cancer is curable if detected very early.
Infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a long-term risk factor for liver cancer, where the malignancy can develop after many years of infection. Other risk factors include consuming foods affected by the aflatoxin mold, heavy alcohol use, cirrhosis of the liver, obesity, diabetes and iron storage disease where the body stores too much iron.
There are rarely symptoms for early liver cancer. Later stage symptoms may include bloating, fever, yellow skin and eyes, nausea, intense skin itching, unexpected weight loss and fatigue.