The liver

The liver is the largest organ in the body. It is in the upper part of the tummy (abdomen) on the right-hand side under your lower ribs. It’s surrounded by a strong fibrous capsule and is divided into two lobes (see diagram below).

The liver and surrounding organs
The liver and surrounding organs

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What does the liver do?

The liver

  • stores sugars and fats so they can be used for energy
  • makes proteins, which help the blood to clot, prevent bleeding and maintain fluid balance in the body
  • makes bile, which breaks down fats so they can be absorbed by the body
  • breaks down harmful substances, such as alcohol and drugs

The liver is good at repairing itself. It can work well even when only a small part of it is working normally.

Back to Understanding primary liver cancer

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

Types of primary liver cancer

Primary liver cancer is rare but increasing in the UK. The most common type is called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).