Symptoms do not necesserily mean you have cancer

However, most liver cancer patients experience signs or symptoms such as the following:

  • Loss of weight (without trying)
  • Loss of appetite
  • A feeling of being very full (even after a small meal)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling under the ribs on the right side (enlarged liver)
  • Swelling under the ribs on the left side (enlarged spleen)
  • Swelling or buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
  • Itching or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) 

Liver cancer can cause other symptoms, too

These include fever, enlarged veins on the belly that can be seen through the skin, and abnormal bruising or bleeding.

Methods to diagnose liver cancer


AFP Blood Exam

The AFP blood test checks for high levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), which can indicate the presence of liver cancer. It is not a perfect diagnostic method. Some people with early HCC may have normal levels of AFP, while others who have high levels of AFP do not have HCC.([FOOTNOTE=American Cancer Society. Liver Cancer. Updated April 28, 2016. Accessed December 21, 2016.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])

Computed Tomography (CT)

CT delivers radiation (like an x-ray) to take a series of images of your body from different angles. The CT scan requires that you lie still on a flat table. During the scan, the table slides back and forth inside the doughnut-shaped opening of the scanner. When the CT scan is done, the doctor will biopsy the abnormal tissue to make a diagnosis.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI uses magnets and radio waves to make images of soft tissues wherein location makes them harder to detect by other methods. An MRI scan requires that you lie still in a tubular, enclosed space. If you have a pacemaker or other metallic implant, check beforehand if you can have an MRI and at what strength. Once the MRI scan is done, the doctor will biopsy the abnormal tissue to make a diagnosis.


Ultrasound produces sound waves to create images of soft tissues. It can help the doctor tell if an abnormal tissue is a tumor or a cyst filled with fluid. Ultrasound images are not as detailed as those produced by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The doctor can do an ultrasound exam quickly without exposing you to radiation. Once the exam is completed, the doctor will biopsy the abnormal tissue to make a diagnosis.

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