Cancer is a serious and life-threatening disease marked by the abnormal growth of cancerous cells. It can affect any organ in the human body and it can be primary or metastatic. Primary liver cancer occurs in the liver, while metastatic liver cancer comes from some other part of the body and spreads to the liver.
A primary cancer tends to spread to the other parts of the body through the bloodstream or through the lymphatic system, although it might just extend to the surrounding tissues. The liver has the role to eliminate toxins from the blood that comes from many organs in the body, such as the lungs, pancreas, stomach, lymphatic system and gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, the liver can be easily affected by the cancerous cells when any of these parts is affected.
Symptoms of metastatic liver cancer
Metastatic liver cancer is almost asymptomatic in the first phase, but even if it shows some warning signs, they are usually mistaken for the symptoms of some other disease. The most common symptoms of this initial stage are loss of appetite, loss of body weight and anorexia. Since these symptoms are common for many other diseases, the liver cancer in this stage is rarely detected.
On the other side, when the liver is swollen and hardened, it indicates that the metastatic liver cancer may be present. When the liver is enlarged, the person with this disease experiences some kind of discomfort in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. Furthermore, liver tenderness is a typical sign of this liver disease. Metastatic liver cancer can also cause splenomegaly, which is the medical term for the abnormal enlargement of the spleen.
Although jaundice may not be present in the first stage of the metastatic liver cancer, it occurs when the cancer progresses. Jaundice happens due to the blockage in the ducts that transmit the bile from the liver to the small intestine. When the bile ducts are obstructed, the bile flows back to the blood and the skin, and the white portion of the eyes becomes yellow. Afterward, the serous fluid tends to build up in the abdominal cavity and causes ascites.
Liver encephalopathy is the final stage of the metastatic liver cancer, in which the person experiences drowsiness and confusion since the toxins are accumulated in the brain because the damaged liver is not capable to filter the blood any more.