man slightly hunched over whilst holding side of stomach in pain

Symptoms Of Liver Metastases

What are liver metastases?

Liver metastases is a term that refers to cancerous tumours that have spread to the liver from cancer in another part of the body, which can appear shortly after the original tumour has developed, or even months/years afterwards. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of liver metastases, as with most cancers, the sooner it’s diagnosed, the more treatment will be available.

Liver metastases are often referred to as secondary liver cancer and are more common than primary liver cancer (where cancer originates in the liver) in Europe and the USA. It’s usually spread from the rectum and colon, so if you have symptoms in these areas, it’s also important to get yourself checked out as soon as possible.

Symptoms of liver metastases

Secondary liver cancers often do not cause any symptoms and are usually diagnosed by CT or MRI scans performed for the purposes of cancer monitoring after treatment of primary cancer. Secondary liver cancers occasionally cause symptoms, which will differ slightly depending on the person and the length of time they have had cancer. It’s also important to note that many of the symptoms of liver metastases are also symptoms of other forms of cancer, meaning you should get checked out by a health professional immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Common symptoms for secondary liver cancer include:

  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark colour urine
  • Enlarged liver
  • Fever
  • Leg swelling
  • A bloated stomach
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Jaundice, which is where the skin and the whites of the eyes start to look yellow

If the cancer is quite far advanced, the patient may also develop a condition called hepatic encephalopathy, which can make the patient feel sleepy and confused, sometimes even leading to coma. These symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, but you should still get checked out immediately if you have any of them.

Liver metastases treatment

Treatment will depend on the degree of secondary liver cancer you have, often focusing on treating the place cancer originated from. Treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Ablation
  • Targeted therapies
  • Hormonal therapies
  • Liver surgery may be an option in some cases, with the aim being to remove cancer from the body itself

If you have any of the symptoms of liver metastases, please contact us as soon as possible for more advice on the next steps to take. For more information, please read our article on the causes and diagnosis of liver metastasis.