What is liver cancer?

Cancer is an uncontrolled overgrowth of cells. Any cancerous growth that arises from the cells of the liver is called primary liver cancer. The most common primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Any cancerous growth in the liver that has spread there from other organs in the body is called secondary cancer or more commonly referred to as “metastases”. The liver is a very common site in the body for metastases from various cancers such as colorectal cancers, breast cancer etc.

How do you get liver cancer?

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary liver cancer. The most common risk factors for HCC are cirrhosis of the liver due to chronic viral hepatitis (Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C), alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and other rarer diseases affecting the liver such as hemochromatosis, sclerosing cholangitis, or primary biliary cirrhosis.

Does liver cancer spread fast?

Generally, hepatocellular carcinoma remains confined to the liver for a reasonably long period before it spreads outside the liver. However metastatic tumours can spread quite quickly.

What is the survival rate for liver cancer?

The 5-year survival rate for liver cancer that is localized to the liver is approximately 33%. Those with distant spread of the disease have a 5- year survival rate of only 2%.

Can liver cancer be cured if caught early?

Yes, patients who are detected to have small tumours, without invasion into the blood vessels, have the option of undergoing curative therapies such as liver transplant, liver resection, and/or radiofrequency ablation (RFA).



The most common symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • Abdominal distension
  • Unintentional loss of weight
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Yellowish discoloration of eyes and skin
  • White chalky stools.

Who is most likely to get liver cancer?

Patients who have liver cirrhosis due to any reason are most susceptible to develop liver cancer.


What are the 4 stages of liver failure?
  • Inflammation
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis
  • End stage liver disease
Who is at high risk for liver cancer?

The patients with chronic liver disease due to any of the below-given reasons are at higher risk than the general population to develop liver cancer:

  • Chronic viral hepatitis (Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C)
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease/ non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NAFLD/NASH)
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Wilson’s disease
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Exposure to Aflatoxin
Can liver cancer be inherited?

Certain rare inherited diseases such as Wilson’s disease, hemochromatosis may be a risk factor predisposing to liver cirrhosis and thereby liver cancer, but these and other inherited causes of liver cancer are exceedingly rare.

  • Tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


The following steps should be taken if you are keen to prevent liver cancer:

  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount you drink. For women, this means no more than one drink a day. For men, this means no more than two drinks a day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If your current weight is healthy, work to maintain it by choosing a healthy diet and exercising most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat each day and increase the amount of exercise you do. Aim to lose weight slowly — 1 or 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) each week.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B: You can reduce your risk of hepatitis B by receiving the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine can be given to almost anyone, including infants, older adults and those with compromised immune systems. No vaccine for hepatitis C exists.
  • Seek treatment for hepatitis B or C infection: Simple treatments are available for hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections. Research shows that treatment can reduce the risk of liver cancer.
  • Ask your doctor about liver cancer screening: For the general population, screening for liver cancer hasn't been proved to reduce the risk of dying of liver cancer, and it isn't generally recommended. People with conditions that increase the risk of liver cancer might consider screening, such as people who have Hepatitis B infection, Hepatitis C infection and liver cirrhosis. Screening typically involves a blood test and an abdominal ultrasound exam every six months.
  • Know the health status of any sexual partner. Don't engage in unprotected sex unless you're certain your partner isn't infected with HBV, HCV or any other sexually transmitted infection. If you don't know the health status of your partner, use a condom every time you have sexual intercourse.
  • Don't use intravenous (IV) drugs, but if you do, use a clean needle. Reduce your risk of HCV by not injecting illegal drugs. Make sure any needle you use is sterile, and don't share it. Contaminated drug paraphernalia is a common cause of hepatitis C infection.
  • Seek safe, clean shops when getting a piercing or tattoo. Needles that may not be properly sterilized can spread the hepatitis C virus. Before getting a piercing or tattoo, check out the shop and ask staff members about their safety practices.


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