Primary liver cancer is an uncommon but serious type of cancer that begins in the liver.
This is a separate condition from secondary liver cancer, where the cancer developed in another part of the body and spread to the liver.
Read about secondary liver cancer on Macmillan Cancer Support.
Symptoms of liver cancer are often vague and do not appear until the cancer is at an advanced stage. They can include:
Visit your GP if you notice any of the symptoms listed above. They're more likely to be the result of a more common condition, such as an infection, but it's best to have them checked.
The exact cause of liver cancer is unknown, but most cases are associated with damage and scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis can have a number of different causes, including:
It's also believed obesity and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of liver cancer because this can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
You may be able to significantly reduce your chances of developing liver cancer by:
Although liver cancer is relatively uncommon in the UK, the chances of developing the condition are high for people with risk factors for the condition.
Over the past few decades, rates of liver cancer in the UK have risen considerably, possibly as a result of increased levels of alcohol consumption and obesity.
Liver cancer is usually diagnosed after a consultation with a GP and a referral to a hospital specialist for further tests, such as scans of your liver.
However, regular check-ups for liver cancer (known as surveillance) are often recommended for people known to have a high risk of developing the condition, such as those with cirrhosis.
Having regular check-ups helps ensure the condition is diagnosed early. The earlier liver cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment is likely to be.
Read about diagnosing liver cancer.
Treatment for liver cancer depends on the stage the condition is at. If diagnosed early, it may be possible to remove the cancer completely.
Treatment options in the early stages of liver cancer include:
However, only a small proportion of liver cancers are diagnosed at a stage where these treatments are suitable. Most people are diagnosed when the cancer has spread too far to be removed or completely cured.
In these cases, treatments such as chemotherapy are used to slow down the spread of the cancer and relieve symptoms such as pain and discomfort.
Read about treating liver cancer.
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Page last reviewed: Sat Sep 2022 Next review due: Sat Sep 2022