Liver cancer can cause several nonspecific symptoms to occur in females. However, a person typically does not experience these symptoms until cancer reaches a more advanced stage.

The liver is a large organ that plays an important role in several aspects of the daily functions of the body. Some of its many jobs include:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 11,000 women in the United States receive a liver cancer diagnosis each year.

Liver cancer occurs when cells in the liver begin to grow uncontrollably. These cells can eventually form a tumor. As the tumor grows, it can spread to other areas of the body. Symptoms often do not appear until later stages of cancer, and there are no symptoms exclusive to females.

This article reviews liver cancer symptoms, risk factors, treatments, and outlooks.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Liver cancer often does not cause symptoms in the early stages when a tumor has not grown or affected the liver’s ability to perform its many functions. As a tumor grows, it can start to impair liver function, leading to the development of symptoms.

The symptoms of liver cancer are nonspecific in both females and males. This means that the symptoms a person develops may be the result of several different issues that affect the liver. Therefore, a person who develops any liver-related symptoms is more likely to be experiencing another condition.

Some common symptoms that may indicate liver cancer or other issues with the liver include:

Anyone experiencing one or more of the symptoms above should speak with a healthcare professional, who can help determine the underlying cause.

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According to the CDC, some conditions and behaviors that may increase a person’s risk of developing liver cancer include:

People with one or more risk factors may wish to discuss screening for liver cancer with a doctor. Some experts recommend screening with ultrasound scans and blood tests every 6 months for those at high risk of developing liver cancer due to hereditary hemochromatosis, cirrhosis, and chronic hepatitis B infection.

A person may consider having a follow-up appointment with a healthcare professional for further information about treatments or recommendations to help decrease their chances of developing liver disease and liver cancer.

Liver cancer treatments can vary between people based on several factors including a person’s age, overall health, and tumor size.

A healthcare professional may recommend surveillance for an area of abnormal tissue smaller than 1 centimeter. A doctor will typically recheck the area and symptoms a person may have every 3 months. During this time, they monitor the person for changes that could indicate a need for further treatment.

Active treatments for liver cancer may include one or more of the following:

A doctor can discuss the pros and cons of each treatment to determine what the best choices are for an individual situation.

Some people may wish to participate in a clinical trial, which is a study that tests a new treatment method for safety and effectiveness. A person will need a doctor’s approval before entering a clinical trial, and they may not be elligible for every trial.

Each year, about 9,000 women in the United States die as a result of liver cancer.

The following table shows the 5-year relative survival rates for liver cancer, based on people who received a diagnosis between 2012-2018 at the following Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) stages.

SEER stage5-year relative survival rate
Localized: Cancer has not spread outside of the liver.36%
Regional: Cancer has spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes.13%
Distant: Cancer has spread to far away parts of the body.3%
All SEER stages combined21%

A 5-year relative survival rate is a broad estimate of how likely a person is to survive based on the stage of their cancer. This rate does not take into account several factors, including a person’s overall health and age, that can affect their likelihood of survival.

A person with liver cancer should ask a doctor about their individual outlook, based on personal factors, such as their age and the stage of their cancer.

Liver cancer causes similar symptoms in females and males. Symptoms for liver cancer are not specific and are often the result of other conditions that affect the liver. Typically, a person does not experience any symptoms in the earlier stages of liver cancer.

A person should speak with a doctor if they experience any symptoms of liver cancer to determine the underlying cause, which may be another condition.

People with certain health conditions, such as hepatitis B and cirrhosis, are more likely to develop liver cancer. Similarly, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol may increase a person’s risk.

Doctors may recommend several treatments for liver cancer, including medications, surgeries, and other therapies.

The overall 5-year relative survival rate for people with liver cancer is low. However, each individual is different, and a person should speak with a doctor about their personal outlook.