Medical experts often refer to liver cancer as a silent condition, as it causes very few symptoms in the early stages. Most symptoms start showing as the patient progresses and reaches an advanced stage. This generally leads to a late diagnosis when treatment options are administered only to manage the symptoms. A complete cure usually becomes difficult at this time. This is why paying attention to some of the silent signs of liver cancer is also important.
Knowing these symptoms may help in seeking an early diagnosis and timely treatment:
1. Persistent pain in different areas
Liver cancer can cause a constant ache in different areas of the body. This ache is generally experienced in the right shoulder, back, or upper right abdomen. The pain is rarely severe and is often a dull sensation that causes some discomfort. In most cases, persistent pain and some swelling in the abdomen occur. This symptom usually becomes evident during a physical examination, particularly when the doctor presses the painful areas a little harder.
2. Unexplained fullness in the abdomen with loss of appetite
With the cancer cells growing in the liver, excess fluids might accumulate in the nearby organs, particularly in the abdomen. As a result, the abdomen may feel full nearly all the time. This makes it difficult to eat complete meals. Therefore, one may lose their appetite over time as they start eating a fraction of their usual food portions.
3. Yellowish skin and eyes
As the liver cancer progresses, the skin and the eyes may appear slightly yellow. While this generally happens in the case of jaundice and hepatitis B, it can also indicate liver cancer. The yellowing of the skin and eyes occurs as the liver fails to process bilirubin, a yellow substance produced during red blood cell breakdown. Under normal circumstances, this bilirubin is expelled from the body once the liver has processed it. However, when the liver starts to malfunction due to cancer or other health disorders, bilirubin accumulates in the body and enters the bloodstream. As a result, the skin and eyes start to look yellowish.
4. Hard lump under or near the right rib
When the cancer cells start to multiply, a tumor starts to grow in the liver. This tumor may be felt as a hard lump directly under the right rib. This lump can be felt during a physical examination by a medical expert. Therefore, those who have a high risk of liver cancer need to undergo regular screening, where doctors check for the presence of such lumps.
5. Pale stools
During digestion, the liver produces bile that goes into the small intestine. This is what gives the stool its brown color. The bile is not produced when the liver’s function is impaired due to any health disorder, such as cancer. Or it is unable to go to the small intestines. As a result, the stool may start to appear pale or whitish.
6. Persistent fatigue
Chronic and persistent fatigue is another silent sign of liver cancer that goes unnoticed. Although it is a known symptom of liver cancer, many often assume the fatigue and tiredness are due to some other health issues, stress, or over-exertion. However, the fatigue caused by liver cancer does not go away even after ample rest. It causes severe weakness and lethargy, even when one has not done any strenuous physical activity.