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Understanding Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Stages, Types, and Treatment Methods

Home > Blogs > Understanding Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Stages, Types, and Treatment Methods

Understanding Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Stages, Types, and Treatment Methods

Oncology | by CMRI | Published on 15/05/2023

Overview: What Is Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer, also known as hepatic cancer, is a serious condition that affects the liver and can have significant implications for a person's health. It is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of liver cancer, including its symptoms, causes, stages, types, and available treatment methods.



This blog aims to provide reference regarding liver cancer which can help you recognize its early signs, and explore the different treatment options available. However, please note that this blog is only for informational purposes and does not replace the significance of a doctor’s consultation.

What Are The Symptoms Of Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer symptoms may vary depending on the stage and progression of the disease. Early-stage liver cancer may not exhibit any noticeable symptoms. While symptoms of liver cancer can also indicate other medical conditions as well, it is always recommended to consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Patients may experience the following as cancer advances -

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling in the abdomen or legs
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Enlarged liver or a lump in the upper right side of the abdomen

What Causes Liver Cancer?

The underlying causes of liver cancer vary from one patient to another. However, primary risk factors associated with liver cancer development include -

  • Chronic viral hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Environmental factors
  • Inherited liver diseases

What Are The Different Stages Of Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer is typically categorized into four stages - Stage I (localized cancer) to Stage IV (advanced cancer). Staging is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment approach and predicting the prognosis. The stages of liver cancer are categorised into the following - 

  • Stage I - The cancer is limited to the liver and has not spread to nearby blood vessels or lymph nodes.
  • Stage II - The tumour has grown larger or may have spread to nearby blood vessels, but it has not spread to lymph nodes or distant sites.
  • Stage III - The cancer has either spread to nearby lymph nodes or invaded major blood vessels.
  • Stage IV - The cancer has spread to distant organs beyond the liver, such as the lungs or bones.

What Are The Different Types Of Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer can be classified into several types. However, the two most common types include -

  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) - This type of liver cancer is the most prevalent form of liver cancer, accounting for around 75-85% of cases. It originates in the main liver cells, known as hepatocytes.
  • Cholangiocarcinoma Cholangiocarcinoma originates in the bile ducts within the liver. It is less common than HCC but still represents a significant portion of liver cancer cases.

What Are the Treatment Methods For Liver Cancer?

The treatment methods for liver cancer depend on various factors like the stage of cancer, the extent of tumour involvement, the patient's overall health, and individual preferences. The choice of treatment and the combination of different approaches depend on individual circumstances and are typically determined by the doctor. The primary treatment options for liver cancer include -

  • Surgical intervention Surgical procedures are often used for early-stage liver cancer when the tumour is small and localised. The following surgical options may be considered -
  • Ablation Therapy This treatment method involves the destruction of cancerous cells using extreme temperatures or chemicals. Ablation techniques for liver cancer include -
    • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
    • Microwave ablation (MWA)
    • Ethanol ablation
  • Radiation Therapy It uses high-energy X-rays or other radiation sources to target and kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used in different ways -
    • External beam radiation therapy
    • Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)
  • Transarterial Chemoembolization(TACE) - This targeted treatment combines chemotherapy and embolization. Chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the blood vessels supplying the tumour, followed by the embolization of those vessels to cut off the tumour's blood supply.
  • Targeted Drug Therapy Certain medications specifically target cancer cells or their specific genetic mutations, inhibiting their growth and spread. Examples include sorafenib, lenvatinib, and regorafenib.
  • Immunotherapy This treatment option uses drugs that stimulate the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells. In some cases, immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as nivolumab and pembrolizumab, may be used for advanced liver cancer.
  • Chemotherapy - Systemic chemotherapy drugs are used to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It may be administered orally or intravenously.
  • Palliative Care In cases where the cancer is advanced or has spread extensively, palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms, improving quality of life, and providing support rather than aiming for a cure.


Liver cancer is a serious disease that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you have any symptoms of liver cancer, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. By taking preventive measures such as getting vaccinated the complications of liver cancer can be managed and prevented to ensure long-term health benefits.


How is liver cancer diagnosed?

The following tests are used to diagnose liver cancer - 

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Biopsy

How can I prevent liver cancer?

Prevention of liver cancer involves the following -

  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get tested for hepatitis C
  • Follow safe injection practices