Types of primary liver cancer

Primary liver cancer is rare in the UK, but the number of people developing the condition is increasing. Around 5,400 people in the UK are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year. In parts of Africa and Asia, it is one of the most common cancers.

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

  • 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.
  • Fibrolamellar HCC is a rare type of primary liver cancer that usually affects younger people. The causes and risk factors are not known.
  • Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) is another type of primary liver cancer. It starts in the cells lining the bile duct.
  • Angiosarcoma is a very rare type of liver cancer, which starts in the blood vessels of the liver.

This information is about hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To make it simpler, we call it HCC.

Benign tumours 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.

Back to Understanding primary liver cancer

What is cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

The liver

The liver is the largest organ in the body. It carries out important functions.