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Liver cancer


The liver

The liver is the largest organ inside the body. It is part of the digestive system and is found next to the stomach on the right side of the abdomen under the ribs. The gall bladder sits under the liver, and the pancreas sits under the stomach. These organs work together to help the body process food.

The two main sections of the liver are the right and left lobes. Blood flows into the liver from the hepatic artery and the portal vein. Blood in the hepatic artery comes from the heart and carries oxygen, while blood in the portal vein comes from the stomach and carries nutrients and substances such as medicines or alcohol to the liver.

The liver does many important jobs. These include:

  • breaking down drugs and alcohol, and getting rid of toxins
  • producing bile to help dissolve fat so it can be easily digested
  • storing and releasing sugars (glucose) as needed
  • storing nutrients
  • making proteins to help blood clot and to balance fluid in the body.

Unlike other internal organs, a healthy liver can usually repair itself if injured. It can continue to function even when only a small part is working and may grow back to its normal size in 6–8 weeks.

Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. A series of tubes called bile ducts carry bile between the liver and gall bladder. The common bile duct carries bile from the liver and gall bladder to the bowel, where it helps to break down fats.

Expert content reviewers:

A/Prof Nicholas O'Rourke, University of Queensland, and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, QLD; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncology, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, and Honorary Research Fellow, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, NSW; A/Prof Mark Danta, Hepatologist, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, and St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, The University of New South Wales, NSW; Dr Samuel Davis, Diagnostic and Interventional Radiologist, Qscan Radiology Clinics and Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, QLD; David Fry, Consumer; Dr Nigel Mott, Diagnostic and Interventional Radiologist, Wesley Hospital and Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, QLD; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Meg Rogers, Nurse Coordinator, Upper Gastrointestinal Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Simone Strasser, Senior Staff Specialist, AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Centre and Australian National Liver Transplant Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, and Central Clinical School, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, NSW.

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