Lung cancer and liver metastases

Lung cancer with liver metastases refers to secondary or metastatic tumours that are formed from cancer cells that have broken away from a primary lung cancer and spread through the lymphatic system or blood stream to the liver.

Wendy is living with stage 4 lung cancer with liver metastases
Wendy is living with stage 4 lung cancer with liver metastases

Once your doctor suspects that cancer has spread to your liver, they may carry out different checks and tests to assess the extent and possible impact of the tumours.

These tests can help your medical team get a clearer picture of what’s going on, and help you think about what you want to do next. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scan of the abdomen
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • PET scan.

Symptoms of liver metastases

If you have lung cancer with liver metastases, you may not have symptoms at all. In fact, you may only find out that your cancer has spread when you have a test, such as a CT scan or PET scan.

Symptoms of liver metastases may include:

  • Pain under your ribs
  • Pain on the right side of your abdomen
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Hiccups.

If the tumour in your liver is obstructing your bile ducts, you may also develop jaundice, the yellowing of your skin and whites of the eyes.

Wendy, living with advanced lung cancer and liver metastases

Wendy was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and liver metastases over seven years ago. She is on a targeted therapy, has minimal side effects and has been able to return to work part time.

Wendy shared her story as part of our Face your Fear campaign to show you can live well with metastatic lung cancer

Treatment for liver metastases

Treatment for liver metastases is primarily about managing symptoms, slowing the growth and improving your quality of life.

Symptom management including anti-sickness treatment, pain killers and draining the fluid in your swollen abdomen.

You may also be offered chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy or surgery. Surgery is not suitable for everyone with liver metastases and can depend on several factors including:

  • Whether your cancer has only spread to the liver
  • The number and size of the tumours
  • Whether your lung cancer, the primary cancer, is under control.
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies
  • Radiotherapy.

Your healthcare team will talk about your case to work out the best treatment for you. It is important to remember, just because you have treatment options doesn’t mean you have to take them.

Your medical team, including your lung cancer nurse specialist, can talk your through your treatment options and the potential impact and side effects they can have, allowing you to make an informed decision.