Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Liver cancer

Liver cancer image

What is liver cancer?

  • Cancer that starts in the liver is called liver cancer1
  • The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and is involved in digestion, the breakdown of waste products, and blood clotting1
  • Secondary liver cancer develops when cancer cells from another type of cancer, e.g. breast cancer, travel to the liver via the bloodstream2


Types of liver cancer

  • There are several different kinds of liver cancer: hepatocellular carcinoma, intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, angiosarcoma and haemangiosarcoma, and hepatoblastoma1
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma is by far the most common type1


Who gets liver cancer?

  • Liver cancer mostly affects people aged 60 years or older;2 hepatoblastoma is a very rare kind of cancer in children1
  • Many cases of liver cancer are linked to cirrhosis; heavy drinking, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and hepatitis B and C can all lead to cirrhosis3
  • It is the 6th most common cancer worldwide4
  • 782,000 new cases were diagnosed worldwide in 20124


Screening, detection, and diagnosis

  • People at high risk of developing liver cancer can be screened using ultrasound scans and a blood test for a protein called alphafetoprotein5
  • The following tests are used for diagnosis :5
    • CT and MRI scans
    • Biopsy
    • Laparoscopy


Patient guidelines

A patient guideline is a document containing information for patients and their families about their disease and the treatment options available to them

Click here to see the European patient guideline on your condition6


Local support groups

Contacting a support group may help you during diagnosis and treatment and afterwards



Click here for information on the incidence of liver cancer in Europe7



  1. American Cancer Society. What is liver cancer? Accessed November 2015.
  2. NHS Choices. Liver cancer - introduction. Accessed November 2015.
  3. NHS Choices. Causes of liver cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  4. World Cancer Research Fund International. Liver cancer statistics. Accessed November 2015.
  5. NHS Choices. Diagnosing liver cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  6. European Society for Medical Oncology. Liver Cancer: a guide for patients. Accessed November 2015.
  7. World Health Organization. Cancer of the liver and intraheptic bile ducts - estimated incidence, mortality & prevalence in men, 2012. Accessed November 2015.