Liver Cancer


Liver cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in the liver. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow and divide without control or order and cause a tumor. A liver cancer may be primary (cancer starting in the liver itself) or secondary (cancer spreading from another part of the body to the liver). No one knows for sure what causes primary liver cancer. You are at a higher risk for having liver cancer if you have a disease that weakens the liver, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Signs and symptoms of liver cancer include pain on the right upper part of your abdomen (stomach), unplanned weight loss, and yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Pictures of your abdomen may be taken to help diagnose the cancer. Tests include an abdominal ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The main treatment for liver cancer is surgery. Anticancer medicines and radiation may also be given.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Do not drink alcohol:

Some people should not drink alcohol. These people include those with certain medical conditions or who take medicine that interacts with alcohol. Alcohol includes beer, wine, and liquor. Tell your caregiver if you drink alcohol. Ask him to help you stop drinking.


  • A caregiver called a dietitian or nutritionist will talk to you about your diet. You may need to control how much protein and salt you eat.

  • Your caregiver will tell you how much liquid you should drink each day.

  • You may also need to take vitamins if you are not getting enough nutrients in your food.

Rest as often as you need to.

Rest is important for your recovery. Do not return to your regular activities too quickly. Start slowly and do more as you feel stronger. Rest during the day. Plan for 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Contact your healthcare provider if you are not able to sleep.

For support and more information:

Liver cancer is a life-changing disease for you and your family. Accepting that you have liver cancer is hard. You and those close to you may feel angry, sad, or frightened. These feelings are normal. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. You may also want to join a cancer support group. This is a group of people who also have liver cancer. Contact the following for more information:

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:
  • Cancer Information Service
    Cancer Information Service
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address:
  • National Cancer Institute
    6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300
    Bethesda , MD 20892-8322
    Phone: 1- 800 - 422-6237
    Web Address:


  • You are vomiting (throwing up) and cannot keep food or liquids down.

  • You cannot make it to your radiation or chemotherapy visit.

  • You have a fever.

  • Your wound is tender, swollen, reddened, or has pus coming from it.

  • You vomit blood or it looks like coffee grounds or your stool looks red, black, or clay-colored.

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.

  • You have questions or concerns about your disease, medicine, or care.


  • You cannot think clearly.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.

  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You have a fast heart beat and are breathing fast, feel confused, or are dizzy or lightheaded.

    • This is an emergency. Call 911 or 0 (operator) to get to the nearest hospital or clinic.

    • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Liver Cancer (Discharge Care)