In some, liver cancer may cause pain, particularly in the upper right area of the abdomen. Often people with liver cancer may experience pain accompanied by swelling or the formation of hard lumps felt in the right side of the abdomen. People may also feel discomfort in the back, below the right shoulder blade.
What is liver cancer?
- Primary liver cancer: This cancer originates in the liver. Primary liver cancer is of different types
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer)
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
- Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma (cancer that begins in the cell lining of the blood vessels in the liver)
- Hepatoblastoma (cancer containing immature cells, generally occurring in infants and young children)
- Secondary liver cancer (metastatic liver cancer): Cancer originating in other parts and migrating to the liver.
- Benign liver tumors: Noncancerous tumors may grow large enough to cause problems, but they do not invade nearby tissues.
What are the sources of pain in liver cancer?
People with liver cancer or advanced stage liver cancer may experience pain from various sources, including
- Tumors: Tumor or tumors in the liver can cause excess pain.
- Capsule stretching: Stretching of the capsule around the liver can cause discomfort.
- Referred pain: Referred pain is caused by the enlarged liver pressing on the nerves under the diaphragm. It may give rise to pain in the right shoulder because some of the nerves under the diaphragm connect to nerves there.
- Treatment: Cancer medications and treatment may cause pain and discomfort. Also, surgery can cause postoperative pain.
- Underlying medical conditions: If cirrhosis is the cause of liver cancer, pain may be attributed to cirrhosis and not to cancer.
How is liver cancer pain managed?
- Over the counter and prescription: For mild pain, fever and swelling, the physician may prescribe acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Weak opioid: Codeine is a weak opioid prescribed for cancer pain.
- Strong opioid: Fentanyl, methadone and morphine are the potent opioids used to relieve cancer pain.
- Antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and steroids are also useful in treating cancer pain.
Moreover, additional therapy might help treat pain, which includes
- Nerve block: Sometimes, a nerve block or local anesthetic relieves or reduces pain. The physician injects local anesthesia into or near nerves in the abdomen.
- Radiation: It can reduce the tumor size, thus relieving some or all of the pain.
Alternative treatment may also be used along with medical management to treat cancer pain, which includes
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Mayo Clinic. Cancer Pain: Relief Is Possible. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-pain/art-20045118