Types of primary liver cancer

There are four main types of cancer that start in the liver:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • Fibrolamellar HCC
  • Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)
  • Angiosarcoma

We also have information about cancer that starts somewhere else in the body and spreads to the liver. This is called secondary cancer in the liver.

Some tumours in the liver are not cancerous (benign). They are usually small and are often found by chance. This might happen when a person is having a scan for another reason. Benign tumours do not usually develop into cancer and are not usually removed.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer. It is sometimes called hepatoma. It starts in the main cells of the liver, called hepatocytes. It is rare in the UK, but the number of people developing the condition is increasing. 

People who have cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) have a higher risk of getting HCC.

Fibrolamellar HCC

This is a rare type of liver cancer that usually affects younger people. The causes and risk factors are not known.

Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma)

Bile duct cancer is another type of liver cancer. It starts in the cells lining the bile duct. The bile ducts are part of the digestive system. Most people with bile duct cancer are over the age of 60. The cause is usually unknown.

Angiosarcoma

Angiosarcoma is a very rare type of liver cancer, which starts in the blood vessels of the liver. It is a type of soft tissue sarcoma. Angiosarcomas can also start in other blood vessels or in lymph vessels.

Angiosarcomas that develop from blood vessels are called haemangiosarcomas.