Have a question?
Our Nurse Navigators and American Cancer Society Patient Navigator are here Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm to answer your questions. Give us a call.
Liver cancer begins in the tissues of the liver. Liver cancer is uncommon in the United States, but rates of liver cancer diagnosis are on the rise. Cancer in the liver is not called liver cancer unless it started there; if the cancer spread from another part of the body it is called metastatic cancer.
Liver Cancer: What You Need to Know
Practice liver cancer prevention by limiting the risk factors that you can control:
- Reduce your risk of cirrhosis (liver scarring):
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Aim for a healthy weight
- Be careful with chemicals
- Reduce your hepatitis C risk
- Use a condom
- Don't use intravenous drugs, but if you do, use a clean needle
- Use clean, safe shops for piercings or tattoos
- Get the hepatitis B vaccine
Liver cancer is best managed by a group of multidisciplinary specialists that includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, research staff, and cancer patient support specialists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.
Our nurse navigators are here to help coordinate your care and streamline your overall experience. Our skilled nurses will help you through the clinical aspects of your care, scheduling initial tests and consultations with the appropriate physicians, providing education regarding your diagnosis and treatment plan, and acting as a single point of contact for you and your family. We also assist with the logistics of your care, helping you find the resources you need, and providing support for transportation, financial and insurance issues.
Experienced, Trusted Expertise
The University of Vermont Cancer Center provides specialty expertise in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer. We provide you with comprehensive and compassionate care - whether you are here for a one-time visit or for ongoing care. Our nationally recognized physicians are also researchers and teachers who are up-to-date with the latest developments in their fields. We are proud to offer clinical research practices that may one day lead to future cures.
What is Liver Cancer?
The liver is one of the largest organs in your body. It fills the upper right side of the abdomen inside the rib cage, and is beneath your diaphragm and above your stomach.
Liver cancer that begins in the cells of the liver (also called primary liver cancer) has four types, depending on which cells become cancerous, including:
- Hepatocellular carcinoma: This is the most common form of primary liver cancer. It starts in the hepatocytes, the main liver cell type.
- Cholangiocarcinoma (also called bile duct cancer or biliary cancer): This cancer begins in the small tubes (bile ducts) in the liver.
- Hepatoblastoma: This liver cancer affects infants and young children.
- Angiosarcoma (also called hemangiosarcoma): This cancer begins in the blood vessels of the liver and grows very quickly.
Liver cancer symptoms often don't appear until the disease is advanced. They may include:
- Weight loss without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- An enlarged liver
- Abdominal swelling
- Your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice)
- White, chalky stools
The exact cause of most liver cancers is unknown, but in some cases the cause is known. Several factors can increase your risk of developing liver cancer, including:
- Gender: the condition is more common in men than women
- Age and location: in North America, Europe and Australia, liver cancer often affects older adults. In the developing countries of Asia and Africa, more commonly liver cancer is diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 50
- Liver diseases:
- Aflatoxin exposure: foods such as corn and peanuts can become contaminated with aflatoxins. Safety regulations limit aflatoxin contamination in the U.S. Certain parts of Asia and Africa more commonly experience aflatoxin contamination
- Chronic hepatitis C or B infection
- Cirrhosis: liver scarring is progressive and irreversible
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Being obese
Diagnosis and Treatment: Liver Cancer
Learn more about liver cancer diagnosis and treatment.