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Liver Cancer Pain


Liver cancer pain can occur from the liver, when it contains cancer. The liver lies under the diaphragm in the right upper abdominal cavity. A shiny peritoneum membrane covers the largest surface of the liver. At the same time the peritoneum membrane contains a lot of nerve endings. The liver enlarges because of a new cancerous growth in it. These nerve endings get stretched and all of a sudden report pain. The cancerous growth can be from another cancer in the body. The physician calls it then “secondary liver cancer” or metastasis.

However, if the cancer originates in the liver, the term for the tumor is “primary liver cancer” or simply liver cancer.


Above all, weight loss and right upper abdominal pain are the most common symptoms of liver cancer. The physician can feel a mass in the right upper abdomen.

There often is also a fever without any apparent infection. However, in the beginning of this disease it can be a challenge to the doctor to make the diagnosis. Ultrasound, CT and MRI scan help in the diagnosis.  Blood tests, which show elevated liver enzymes, are also helpful. Certainly, an ultrasound guided liver biopsy allows the pathologist to make the diagnosis. A high percentage of patients with liver cancer had cirrhosis of the liver before. The cancer developed as a result of the chronic irritation in the tissue from the cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver can be on the basis of alcohol abuse first. Second, cirrhosis can be due to chronic hepatitis (hepatitis B or C). Additionally cirrhosis can be due to primary sclerosing cholangitis.


Like with any other cancer the oncologist performs tests to see which cancer stage the patient is in. Unfortunately, as there are no early warning signs, the patient often is already in a late stage at the time of diagnosis. Treatment consists of chemotherapy. Details about this are in the liver cancer chapter. With leukemia or Hodgkins lymphoma the liver metastases can occur secondarily. The physician treats the primary leukemia or lymphoma with appropriate combination chemotherapy.

Further details regarding liver cancer can be found under this link in another chapter.


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Last modified: August 30, 2018

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.