About liver cancer

What is the liver?

The liver is the second largest organ in your body after your skin. It is found below your right lung and behind your lower right ribs. The liver is divided into two lobes: the right and the left. Each lobe is further divided into sections called lobules.
The liver is a very important organ and has many roles:

  • It makes proteins that help blood to clot when you cut yourself.
  • It makes other proteins (albumin) needed for fluid balance in your body.
  • It makes cholesterol needed for every cell in your body to grow.
  • It stores and converts carbohydrates and fats into energy.
  • It makes bile that breaks down fats and absorbs them into the body. Bile is stored in the gallbladder, while the bile duct connects the liver to the bowel.
  • It stores glucose and nutrients until the body needs them.
  • It gets rid of substances not needed by your body. These include alcohol, drugs and other waste products.
  • It gets rid of substances not needed by your body. These include alcohol, drugs and other waste products.

What is liver cancer?

When cancer develops in the liver, the cells change and grow in an abnormal way. As the cancer grows it forms a group of cells called a tumour. This tumour can cause a blockage and result in symptoms like pain and jaundice.

When cancer starts in the liver, it is called primary liver cancer. But when cancer starts somewhere else in the body and spreads to the liver, it is called secondary liver cancer. For example, if bowel cancer spreads to the liver, you have primary bowel cancer and secondary liver cancer.

How common is liver cancer?

Liver cancer is not a common cancer. Around 180 people are diagnosed with liver cancer each year in Ireland.

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm