Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Stages and Treatments

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By Dr. Sanjaya Mishra, Oncology

Liver cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cells present in the liver. The liver cells tend to function abnormally and also change in appearance. These cancerous cells start to affect other nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Liver cancer is generally classified into two types:

  1. Primary Liver Cancer: In this case, the cancer begins in the liver.
  2. Secondary Liver Cancer: In case of secondary liver cancer, the cancer spreads from other parts of the body to the liver.


Liver cancer produces symptoms of rapid weight loss, itchy skin and fatigue. Lack of appetite combined with vomiting is also very common. Liver cancer may lead to jaundice and swelling in the stomach.


The exact cause of liver cancer is not known, but there are certain factors that may make one significantly vulnerable to this disorder.

  1. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risks of liver cancer.
  2. Being affected by viral infections.
  3. Damaged bile ducts in the liver.
  4. Haemochromatosis, a disorder wherein the levels of iron in the body rise significantly.
  5. Obesity coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle.

Stages of Liver Cancer-

Liver cancer is usually broken down into four stages:

Stage 1: This stage is characterized by a tumor in the liver.

Stage 2: In this stage, the tumor may spread to the adjoining blood vessels. There may also be multiple tumors.

Stage 3: At stage 3, cancer may have spread to other organs in the body with the size of the tumor being more than 5 cm.

Stage 4: Here, cancer spreads to other areas such as the bones or the lungs.


The treatment options for liver cancer are –

  1. Surgery: Surgical procedures to treat liver cancer involve removing either a part or the entire liver, based on how far the liver cancer has progressed. A liver transplant is required in case the entire liver is excised.
  2. Chemotherapy: In this treatment, certain medications are injected into the body to destroy the cancerous cells in the liver.
  3. Radio Surgery: If tumor is small we can do Radio surgery otherwise called Cyberknife or radioactive needle implanted in the tumor.