Liver cancer (primary)

Liver cancer is a cancer that starts in the liver. It is sometimes called primary liver cancer. A cancer that starts somewhere else in the body and spreads to the liver is called secondary cancer in the liver.

Primary liver cancer is rare in the UK, but the number of people developing it is increasing. Around 5,700 people in the UK are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year. In other parts of the world, such as parts of Africa and Asia, it is one of the most common cancers.

Meet the Gastrointestinal (GI) team.

Am I at risk?

We do not know the exact cause of liver cancer. But certain things called risk factors can increase a person’s chance of developing it. Risk factors include;

• Age – most people diagnosed are over the age of 65
• Gender – liver cancer is more common in men than in women
• Smoking – increases the risk of getting liver cancer
• Hepatitis infection – long term infection with the hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus can cause liver cancer
• Cirrhosis (which may be caused by obesity or excess alcohol) – people with cirrhosis have a higher risk of getting liver cancer.

For more information on risk factors for liver cancer, please follow this link.

Symptoms of primary liver cancer

In the early stages of liver cancer, there are often no symptoms. If you have long-term (chronic) liver disease, you may have regular tests to check their liver. If you develop liver cancer, these tests may find it before you have any symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • feeling sick
  • jaundice

Other symptoms of liver cancer can include:

  • aching or pain in the right side of the tummy near the ribs and sometimes in the right shoulder
  • a high temperature an d flu-like symptoms
  • swollen tummy
  • Bruising or bleeding easily

For more information on the symptoms of primary liver cancer, please follow this link.

Patient information

For more information from Macmillan regarding liver cancer, please follow this link.

For more information from Cancer Research UK regarding liver cancer, please follow this link.

diagram showing key internal body parts