There are many forms of liver cancer. Some types are common, but other types are extremely rare. Most types of liver cancer can have similar symptoms relating to their presence. Some liver cancers have a much better outlook than others.

Liver cancer occurs when liver cells grow in an atypical way.

This article takes an in-depth look at several types of liver cancers, highlighting their symptoms, incidence rates, and outlook. It also discusses how doctors diagnose and stage this disease.

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Scientists define hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) as an important form of primary liver cancer. Liver cancers initially form in the liver.

HCC usually develops in people with cirrhosis from preexisting chronic liver problems, such as alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver, or chronic viral hepatitis.

A 2022 article notes that HCC makes up around 90% of primary liver cancers. It is the fifth most common form of cancer worldwide and affects around 2–4% of people with cirrhosis.

Symptoms of HCC include:

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal distension
  • fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • weight loss
  • feeling full faster than usual
  • fever
  • hyperglycemia
  • high blood calcium levels
  • itchy skin
  • jaundice

Survival rate

HCC has a 5-year survival rate of 18%.

Scientists describe fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FL-HCC) as a different type of liver cancer from HCC.

A 2022 article states that, unlike HCC, which usually affects people over 50 years of age, FL-HCC most commonly affects those aged 5–35 years, predominantly in the second and third decades of life.

FL-HCC makes up only around 1% of primary liver cancers. One 2021 study estimates that FL-HCC may affect only around 0.02 people per 100,000 in the United States.

Symptoms of FL-HCC include abdominal pain and an enlarged liver or abdominal mass.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) notes that with surgical treatment, FL-HCC has a 5-year survival rate of 44–68%. If the treatment is nonsurgical, that figure reduces to 2–17%.

Technically speaking, cholangiocarcinoma is not a liver cancer. However, it can affect the liver.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer of the bile ducts, which are the tubes connecting the liver, gall bladder, and small intestine.

Cholangiocarcinomas develop from the network of bile ducts that exist inside the liver. They are the second most common primary cancers affecting the liver, with HCC being the first.

According to a 2019 study, cholangiocarcinoma affects around 1.26 people per 100,000 people in the U.S. between 2001 and 2015.

Symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma include:

  • abdominal pain
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • itchy skin
  • jaundice
  • clay-colored stools
  • dark-colored urine


The 5-year survival rate for cholangiocarcinoma is between 5% and 10%.

However, the survival rate can vary depending on the following factors:

  • the stage of the primary tumor
  • the location of the tumor
  • whether curative surgery or resection is possible

Angiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood and lymphatic vessels. When it begins in the blood or lymphatic vessels inside the liver, scientists call this liver angiosarcoma.

Although liver angiosarcoma is the third most common primary cancer affecting the liver, it only makes up between 0.1% and 2% of such cancers. However, because it is so uncommon, scientists cannot confidently estimate its incidence.

Symptoms of liver angiosarcoma include:

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal distention
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • jaundice


The outlook for liver angiosarcoma is poor. An article from 2022 notes that the majority of people with this disease die within 6 months of diagnosis. With treatment, only 3% of people live for over 2 years.

Scientists understand hepatoblastoma as a primary liver cancer. It is the most common liver cancer in children and infants. Most cases of hepatoblastoma begin during the first 2 years of life.

The overall incidence of this disease remains unclear. A 2019 article states that between 2000 and 2015, the incidence of hepatoblastoma increased from 1.89 to 2.16 per 1,000,000 people.

Symptoms of hepatoblastoma include:

  • a painful and rapidly growing abdominal mass
  • weight loss
  • anorexia


The above 2019 article estimates hepatoblastoma’s 5-year survival rate at 81.5%.

Healthcare professionals define liver metastasis as liver cancers that originate in a different body part and eventually spread to the liver. Doctors sometimes call these secondary liver cancers.

A 2022 article notes that the liver is one of the most common organs into which other cancers spread. If a nonliver cancer metastasizes, there is a 25% likelihood of it spreading to the liver.

Symptoms of liver metastases include:

  • abdominal distention
  • fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • feeling full more quickly than usual
  • bowel habit changes
  • metabolic changes
  • weight loss
  • jaundice
  • bloody stools
  • encephalopathy


The 5-year survival rate in liver metastasis is generally poor. It varies due to the primary cancer that dictates how aggressive the metastasis is.

Without treatment, liver metastases have a 5-year survival rate of 5%. With certain treatments, it may range between 58% and 61%.

Anyone with symptoms of liver cancer needs to consult a doctor. This is because earlier diagnoses can change a person’s outlook.

As the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains, the average 5-year survival rate for early stage liver cancer is roughly 35%. However, in its later stages, the average liver cancer has a 5-year survival rate of only 3%.

If doctors suspect an individual has liver cancer, they can recommend further testing.

According to the ACS, tests for liver cancer may include imaging techniques, biopsies, and blood tests.

Doctors can also use some of these techniques to stage a person’s liver cancer. Liver cancer staging takes into account several factors:

  • the size and number of liver tumors
  • the extent of any spread to nearby lymph nodes or nearby organs
  • the extent of any spread to distant lymph nodes or distant organs

There are four main stages of liver cancer. However, health experts further divide stages 1, 3, and 4 into two substages. Higher stages represent a more advanced cancer.

Liver cancer is a disease that takes many forms.

Some liver cancers begin within the liver, while others spread from other cancers. Many liver cancers affect older individuals. However, some liver cancers are more common in people in the earlier stages of life.

The outlook for liver cancer varies greatly. For instance, hepatoblastoma has quite a high survival rate, at least with treatment. Contrastingly, the outlook for people with liver metastasis, cholangiocarcinoma, or liver angiosarcoma is quite poor.

Despite this, getting an earlier diagnosis can greatly increase the survival rate of someone with liver cancer.