The liver

The liver is the largest organ in the body. It’s 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). 

Upper digestive system
Upper digestive system

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The liver carries out important functions, such as:

  • storing sugars and fats so they can be used for energy
  • producing proteins which help blood to clot, prevent too much bleeding and keep the balance of fluid in the body
  • producing bile which breaks down fats so they can be absorbed by the bowel (bile travels from the liver through the bile duct to the bowel)
  • breaking down harmful substances, such as alcohol and drugs, so they can be passed out in urine or stools.

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).