Is it possible to have liver cancer with no symptoms?

Mickey asked...

Is it possible to have liver cancer with no symptoms? My 81 year old father passed away January 3. We were told on December 31 that he had liver cancer and had perhaps two weeks to live. He had no signs that anything was wrong until December 30 when he complained of weakness and very little abdominal pain. They tested and told us he had a large liver mass, and a knot in his jaw that was a parotid tumor. How can one have liver cancer with no symptoms?

Expert Answer

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker is author and creator of the The Compassionate Caregiver's Series, which includes "The Compassionate Caregiver's Guide to Caring for Someone with Cancer," "The Journey of Grief," "Handbook on Hospice and Palliative Care," and other titles on cancer diagnosis and end of life. She speaks regularly at cancer research and support functions, including PANCAN and Cancer Survivor's Network. She is a former member of the Executive Committee of the CSN at St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta and the Georgia Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Yes, it is possible, and even probable to have no symptoms of liver cancer. Or, a patient could have non-specific symptoms -- like your father's weakness and pain that could be attributed to something else. This is one of the reasons that when discovered diseases like liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer are often late stage.  Patients think they are feeling these things because of other maladies, or they are just regular aches and pains. Your father probably couldn't remember exactly when he felt a little weak or a little pain, which makes it difficult to know when his cancer-related symptoms started.