Liver Cancer

Primary Liver Cancer means the Cancer has started in the liver. Secondary Cancers happen when Cancer cells break away from the primary site and travel to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system. Liver Cancer is the 5th most common Cancer in men and the 9th most common in women. Treatments include surgery, ablation, embolisation therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, selective internal radiation therapy and Immunotherapy. Get verified second opinions from OncoConnect’s curated list of international Oncologists.

About Liver Cancer

Primary liver cancer means the cancer has started in the liver. Secondary cancers happen when cancer cells break away from the primary site and travel to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system.

Liver cancer is the fifth most commonly occurring cancer in men and the ninth most common in women. There was an approximate 1 million cases of liver cancer reported in 2018 globally.

Symptoms of liver caner include yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), itching, feeling sick, swollen tummy (abdomen), loss of appetite or feeling full after eating small amounts, pain in the abdomen or right shoulder or a lump on the right side of the abdomen.  Factors which can increase the chances of getting liver cancer include family history, Chronic Viral Hepatitis, Cirrhosis, gender and alcohol abuse.

Once liver cancer has been diagnosed, doctors will determine the stage of cancer and whether or not it is metastatic; based on which doctors would be able to devise a treatment plan.

Liver cancer treatment varies depending on the stage of cancer and whether or not the cancer has spread.Treatments include surgery, ablation, embolisation therapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, selective internal radiation therapy and Immunotherapy.

To know more about liver cancer you can refer to our Liver Cancer Guide


Liver cancer is common in adults, hence screening guidelines are suggested for people above 21 years and who are at risk.

Screening test include doing a liver ultrasound and Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood test every 6 months.

our experts

Dr Mathangi J

Consultant Radiation Oncologist

Professor Nagy Habib

Professor of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Consultant General Surgeon



Surgery: The best option for liver cancer treatment is either surgical resection (removal of the tumour with surgery)or a liver transplant. If all cancer in the liver is completely removed, you will have the best outlook.

Liver Transplant: You may be eligible for a liver transplant if you have:

    • a single tumour no more than 5cm across
    • a single tumour 5-7cm across and has not grown for at least 6 months
    • 5 small tumours, each one no longer than 3cm across

Liver transplant is not an option if the cancer has grown into a blood vessel or spread outside of the liver. This is because there would still be cancer cells left behind in the body after the operations.

Ablation: This treatment destroys liver tumours without removing them. These techniques can be used in patines with a few small tumours and when surgery is not a good option (often due to poor health or reduced liver function). Ablation is best used for tumours no larger than 3cm across (a little over an inch). For slightly larger tumours (1-2 inches, or 3-5cms across), it mayne used along with embolisation.

Embolisation: This procedure involves the injection of substances directly into an artery in the liver to block or reduce the blood flow to the tumour in the liver.


    • External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT): involves radiation from a source outside the body on the cancer cells
    • Stereostatic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT): Newer radiation techniques help doctors target liver tumours while reducing the radiation to nearby healthy tissues. This makes it more effective and reduces side effects. SBRT allows treatment to be completed in a shorter time as compared to EBRT.
    • Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT): This is a treatment for liver cancers that delivers million of tiny radioactive microspheres or beads called SIR -Spheres directly to the liver tumours. SIRT is a way of using radiotherapy to control cancers in the liver that can’t be removed with surgery. It is a type of internal radiotherapy. It is sometimes called radioembolisation or trans-arterial radioemboilisation (TARE).

Chemotherapy: This is given by administrating drugs intravenously (IV), intra-arterially (IA) or via intra – peritoneal (IP) injections to destroy cancer cells. This treatment can last up to many weeks.

Immunotherapy: It is the use of medicines that help a person’s own immune system find and destroy cancer cells. It can one used to treat people with liver cancer.

Targeted Therapy: This is performed by administrating a number of drugs to the patient which will target certain components of the cancer cells.

Treatments are often used in combination with each other, particularly is the cancer is advanced and surgery is being performed. Chemotherapy may often be used before surgery to shrink the tumour or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that could not be removed during surgery.

You may experience vomiting, nausea, hair loss, fatigue & body pain during treatment. Please do not hesitate to discuss this further with your doctor, for more information on the management of any symptoms.


  • Most patients require a post – surgical recovery period of up to 4- 6 weeks. Speak to your surgeon to understand the amount of recovery you would need following your treatment.
  • Appropriate rest is also important during this period.
  • If there is pain and discomfort then please speak to your doctor for its management.
  • If you have been treated with surgery, liver transplant or ablation / embolisation and have no signs of cancer remaining, most doctors recommend a follow-up with imaging and blood tests every 3-6 months for the first 2 years and then every 6-12 months. Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments.

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length of stay

Hospital Stay:     3-14 days for surgery

Total Stay:           Depending upon treatment the length of stay can wary from 2 weeks to a few months

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