A Guide to the Different Types of Liver Cancer

    A Guide to the Different Types of Liver Cancer

    The liver is a vital and the largest solid organ in the human body. The organ does the important function of purifying the blood that comes from the digestive tract and then transferring it to the other parts of the body. It also does the function of purifying chemicals and processing drugs.

    The liver also works as a storage for vitamins and minerals. When there is a growth of unhealthy cells in the liver, it causes cancer. The development of liver cancer affects the way the organ functions. There are different types of liver cancer and they are classified as primary liver cancer and secondary liver cancer.

    types of liver cancer

    Types of liver cancer

    In primary liver cancer, the cancer cells grow in the liver. Individuals with a history of liver ailments are more likely to develop liver cancer. There are five different types of primary liver cancer depending on the type of cell on which cancer grows.

    While secondary liver cancer is a type of cancer that is spread to the liver from other nearby parts of the liver that has developed cancer. This happens because cancer cells have the tendency to break away and travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or lymphoid system.

    Primary liver cancer

    There are five different types of primary liver cancer. They are:

    • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
    • Fibrolamellar carcinoma
    • Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
    • Angiosarcoma
    • Hepatoblastoma

    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), also called hepatoma, is one of the most common types of liver cancer. People who have a history of liver ailments such as Hepatitis B or alcohol abuse are likely to develop this type of cancer.

    Hepatocellular carcinoma is a type of liver cancer that is grown in hepatocytes. Men are more at risk of developing hepatoma, as compared to women. In most cases of HCC, individuals do not experience any symptoms. The symptoms individuals may have are related to cirrhosis.

    Fibrolamellar carcinoma

    Fibrolamellar carcinoma, also called FLC, is a subtype of hepatocellular cancer. It is a rare type of cancer that is usually developed in teens and individuals under 40 years of age. The one thing that makes this type of liver cancer different is that it is developed in individuals with healthy livers.

    Most other liver cancers are developed in people who have liver ailments or liver damage because of infections or drug abuse. In the initial stage of liver cancer, an individual may not experience any symptoms.

    When cancer progresses to advanced stages, individuals may experience jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, abdomen pain, back pain, or weakness.

    To diagnose liver cancer, your doctor may recommend you doing imaging tests and biopsy. Fibrolamellar carcinoma is treated with the help of chemotherapy, embolisation therapy, and surgeries.


    Cholangiocarcinoma is also called bile duct cancer. This is one of the types of cancer occurs in the bile ducts, a long tube-like structure that connects your liver to the gallbladder and small intestine.

    Individuals older than 50 years of age are more likely to get cholangiocarcinoma. Signs and symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma include jaundice, stools that are white in color, weakness, itching, pain in the abdomen, and sudden weight loss.


    Angiosarcoma is one of the types of liver cancer that is extremely rare and is formed in the blood vessels of the liver and lymph vessels. This is also known as haemangiosarcoma or soft tissue sarcoma. Individuals with a history of radiation therapy are more likely to get angiosarcoma.


    Hepatoblastoma is one of the rare types of liver cancer that is developed in kids below three years of age. This type of cancer does not spread to other parts of the body.

    Common symptoms of hepatoblastoma include the appearance of a lump in the abdomen, pain or swelling in the abdomen, sudden weight loss, weakness, jaundice, loss of appetite, itchy skin, and nausea.

    The symptoms may vary depending on a number of factors including the size of the cancer and if it has spread to other parts of the body. The symptoms may not always indicate liver cancer, in some cases, it is also an indication of other medical conditions.

    If your child has any unusual symptoms, consult your doctor. To diagnose the condition, your doctor may do a physical examination of your baby and recommend doing a few tests including blood tests to check the functioning of kidney and liver, CT scan, MRI, and tumour biopsy, etc.

    Benign liver growths

    Benign liver growth indicates liver tumors that are non-cancerous. This type of liver cancer is common and is not harmful. There are three main types of benign liver growths, they are are haemangioma, hepatic adenoma, and focal nodular hyperplasia.

    These types of liver cancer rarely grow or spread to other parts of the body. Individuals with benign liver growths rarely experience any signs or symptoms. Since there are no symptoms, benign liver growth is not diagnosed in most cases. Benign liver growths usually do not require any treatments.

    Secondary liver cancer

    Secondary liver cancer occurs when cancer that has started in other parts of the body spreads to the liver. The most common cancers that spread to the liver are breast cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc.

    Common symptoms of secondary liver cancer include:

    • pain in the abdomen
    • swelling in the abdomen
    • fatigue
    • weakness
    • loss of appetite
    • jaundice

    These symptoms might not always indicate liver cancer; they could also be because of other liver ailments or medical conditions.

    If you have symptoms of secondary liver cancer, your doctor may recommend you do a few tests. The tests include MRI, CT scan, ultrasound scan, and blood tests to check the functioning of the liver.


    The treatments for different types of liver cancer are different for different people. Since this type of cancer spreads to the liver because of cancer that has developed in other organs, the treatment depends on the primary cancer cells.

    In most cases, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy or a combination treatment of surgery and chemotherapy. Other treatments include hormone therapy, cancer medications, radiotherapy, hepatic artery infusion. In addition, your doctor may also recommend treatment for primary cancer.

    Learn more about liver cancer, here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Alaga Health

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Nov 09, 2021