There are several types of liver cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common), and less common types like intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma. Liver cancer, if undiagnosed and untreated, can spread to other areas of the body and be potentially fatal. What’s more, liver cancer can lead to liver disease, or liver cirrhosis, as a result of damaged liver cells being replaced by scar tissue. Liver disease causes additional symptoms, with itchiness being one of them, and liver disease treatment on top of cancer treatment can be very hard on the body. As such, it’s essential to watch for these early symptoms of liver cancer to catch it and treat it before it progresses too far:
1. Itchy skin
As previously mentioned, having liver cancer puts you at higher risk for developing liver disease as the damaged liver cells become replaced by scar tissue. Brought on by liver disease, itchy skin may be experienced due to a higher level of bile salt build-up underneath the skin. If you have chronically itchy skin, do your best not to itch as it can make the symptom worse by breaking the skin—seek medical advice from your doctor and take steps to prevent skin irritation.
2. Losing weight without trying
There are a number of health issues that can cause you to lose weight without trying, not just liver cancer; however, regardless of what the cause is, unexplained weight loss should never go unreported. With liver cancer, this often occurs as a result of a loss of appetite, but it can also occur as a result of feeling full because of a swollen liver, high calcium levels, malabsorption, and more.
3. Upper abdominal pain and/or swelling
Liver cancer causes swelling of the liver, which can then display itself as a swollen abdomen. Additionally, the swelling of the liver makes it bigger, putting pressure on the abdomen and causing it to become inflamed as well, which can be the cause of upper abdominal pain. Patients with liver cancer may also experience pain in the right shoulder blade.
4. Nausea and vomiting
Reduced liver function can take a toll on your digestive system, making you feel nauseous or even making you vomit. If you cannot keep food down or are chronically nauseous, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Jaundice is a skin condition which gives the skin and whites of the eyes a yellow-ish tone. Like itching, this symptom is caused by the build-up of bile salts in the skin. This symptom may also make your urine appear darker and give your stool a pale of white-ish color.
6. General weakness and fatigue
Cancer related fatigue takes tiredness to a whole new level. This fatigue certainly won’t improve with a good night’s sleep and will cause a whole body general weakness, making daily tasks very challenging. If your fatigue is lasting longer than usual and your weakness is interfering with your day-to-day life, you should seek medical attention immediately.