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The liver

The largest organ inside the body, the liver is about the size of a football. It is part of the digestive system, working with the gall bladder and pancreas to help break down food and turn it into energy.

The liver has many important jobs, including:

  • storing sugars and fats, so they can be used for energy
  • producing bile which helps dissolve fat so it can be easily digested
  • making proteins to help blood clot and to balance fluid in the body
  • breaking down harmful substances, such as drugs and alcohol.

The liver is found on the right side of the abdomen (belly) sitting just above the stomach and under the rib cage. 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. Blood in the portal vein comes from the digestive organs and carries nutrients and substances (e.g. medicines) to the liver.

Unlike other internal organs, a healthy liver may be able to repair itself if it is injured or part of it is surgically removed during cancer treatment. 

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed June 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare, Gold Coast, QLD; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Anne Dowling, Hepatoma Clinical Nurse Consultant and Liver Transplant Coordinator, Austin Health, VIC; A/Prof Koroush Haghighi, Liver, Pancreas and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Prince of Wales and St Vincent’s Hospitals, NSW; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Brett Knowles, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Lina Sharma, Consumer; A/Prof Simone Strasser, Hepatologist, AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; David Thomas, Consumer.