Liver cancer

There are several cancer types that originate in the liver (primary liver cancer). The most common type is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Some people develop tumors in the liver due to cancer in other body parts that has spread through the body, like colon cancer. You can find more specific information about liver metastases on this page.

Read more about the symptoms, the most common diagnostic tests and treatments, and your treatment team on this page. 

Causes and symptoms liver cancer

Every year, approximately 800 people are diagnosed with liver cancer. These people have primary liver cancer (cancer that develops in the liver). Liver cancer is more common in men than in women. 

For approximately one in five patients with primary liver cancer, the cause is unclear. Four in five patients have liver damage (cirrhosis of the liver). Cirrhosis of the liver can be caused by:

  • Liver infection caused by a virus (viral hepatitis)
  • Gall duct infections
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Hemochromatosis (a hereditary disease causing the body to absorb too much iron from food, which builds up in the liver)
  • Fatty liver disease, usually caused by obesity

Symptoms liver cancer

People who develop cancer in the liver often don't experience symptoms at first. The cause of the tumor, the location, size, and number determines the type of symptoms that will occur. The cause of the tumor, like cirrhosis, can cause symptoms. Some common symptoms are:

  • Enlarged liver and (dull) pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Generalized weakness and fatigue
  • Itchiness and jaundice (a yellow tint on the skin and eyes) 
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Spontaneous bleedings as a result of blood clotting disorders
5 days

rapid diagnostics

You can usually get rapid diagnostics within five days


The following diagnostic tests may be done to confirm or rule out liver cancer:

Treatment options liver cancer

Your exact treatment options will depend on the tumor type and stage. Your overall health and shape will also affect your options. We will inform you about the process beforehand, and you will have plenty of time to ask questions. Your treatment will most likely consist of one or more of the following treatments:

Treatment team

All our specialists are specialized in the treatment of liver cancer. They join together in the penile cancer focus group and join together every week for a multidisciplinary team meeting where they will discuss your personal situation, test results, and medical history in order to find the treatment option that best fits you. Your practicing physician will discuss your options with you. At the Netherlands Cancer Institute, we value your thoughts and input on your treatment.

Why the NKI?

  • Have you been diagnosed with liver cancer at a different hospital? You can come to us for a second opinion or treatment.
  • We fully integrate research and care which allows us to treat all our patients in accordance with the latest developments and treatment options. We can give you advice based on your personal situation.
  • Strong focus on supportive care through physical therapy, psychological care, dietetics, and rehabilitation.
  • Plenty of time for you and your loved ones.
  • 482

    patients with liver tumors
  • 150

    new patients
  • 26

    second opinions

Iformation about setting up an appointment or second opinion

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