Primary liver cancer is a cancer that starts in your liver when cells grow in an abnormal and uncontrolled way.
The most common type of primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) which starts in the main cells of the liver. It’s also called hepatoma and occurs in nine in 10 cases of primary liver cancer.
Primary liver cancer is uncommon in the UK. It’s more common to have secondary (metastatic) liver cancer – where cancerous cells have broken away from a tumour elsewhere in your body and travelled through the blood or lymphatic system to your liver. The treatment for secondary liver cancer depends on where the cancer originally started.
This information is about primary liver cancer and HCC.
Primary liver cancer can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages because it doesn’t have many specific signs or symptoms. It’s often diagnosed when it’s more advanced which makes it difficult to treat.
Liver cancer symptoms include:
Symptoms of more advanced liver cancer include:
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If you have a high risk of developing liver cancer, you should have regular screenings which may include ultrasound scans and blood tests. These tests are also used if you have symptoms and your doctor suspects liver cancer.
To confirm a diagnosis or assess how advanced liver cancer is, further tests include:
The main cause of primary liver cancer is scarring due to previous damage (liver cirrhosis). This can be caused by:
Other risk factors of primary liver cancer include:
Treatment for liver cancer depends on the stage (how far it’s advanced) and your general health.
Liver cancer is easier to cure if it’s diagnosed and treated early. Treatments include:
For more advanced cases of liver cancer, a multi-disciplinary team can recommend treatment to improve symptoms and slow the progress of the disease. This includes: