Alt. names: Hepatocellular carcinoma. The liver will function normally with only a small portion of it in working order.
Liver cancer can be a primary cancer (starts in the liver) or a secondary cancer (starts in another part of the body and spreads to the liver).
Primary liver cancer is one of the less common cancers in Victoria with about 170 people diagnosed each year. It is more common in men and people aged over 60 years. Most primary liver cancers are called hepatocellular carcinoma, as they start in liver cells called hepatocytes. Others start in a bile duct and are called cholangiocarcinoma.
In the western world, most people who develop primary liver cancer also have cirrhosis of the liver. This is scarring of the liver which is due to a variety of causes including heavy alcohol drinking over a long period of time. However, only a small proportion of people who have cirrhosis of the liver develop primary liver cancer. Infection with hepatitis B, C or D can also increase the risk of developing cirrhosis, and later, primary liver cancer.
Secondary liver cancer is the most common liver cancer in the western world. A secondary liver cancer is a cancer that starts somewhere else in the body and spreads (metastasises) to the liver. Most cancers can spread to the liver but the common ones are breast, stomach and bowel cancers. These liver cancers are named after the primary cancer for example, breast cancer that has spread to the liver is called metastatic breast cancer. Sometimes, the liver cancer is discovered first, which leads to the diagnosis of the primary cancer.
Liver cancer usually has no symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms can include:
Liver cancer is usually diagnosed with a number of different tests, which may include:
If the tests show you have secondary liver cancer (and you did not know that you had a primary cancer), you may need further tests to find out where the primary cancer is.
Treatment for liver cancer will depend on whether it is a primary or secondary cancer. Treatment options may include: