Liver cancer (primary)

Primary liver cancer means the disease starts in your liver. There are several types. The most common is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Secondary liver cancer starts in another part of your body, such as your bowel, before spreading to the liver.

NHS Choices has more information about liver cancer.

King’s Liver Unit is a world-renowned specialist liver care centre and we run Europe’s largest liver transplant programme.

What to expect at your appointment

Your first appointment at hospital may take between 45 minutes and two hours. You may have tests and investigations on the same day or at a later date.

You will see one of our consultants or a member of their team. They will ask you about your symptoms and your general health and examine you. They will also discuss possible treatments with you. You may have a scan at the same visit.

You will meet the liver clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who will be your key worker during your care. They will explain your test and treatment options and support you and your family. You will also be given written information about the type of cancer you have, your treatment options and other sources of support such as King's Macmillan Information and Support Centre.

We usually send you appointment letters for tests, investigations or treatments by post.

Tests and investigations

At your first appointment you may have one or more of the following tests or may be asked to return at a later date to have them. They help us to find out whether you have cancer and to assess your treatment options. You usually have most of these King’s but you may also have some at your local hospital. They include:

  • blood tests including liver function and tumour markers in liver outpatients at King’s
  • CT scan with contrast at King’s
  • MRI at King’s
  • PET scan at King's

Treatments

Your care and treatment depends on the type cancer you have, its size and where it is, how far it has advanced (the stage) and your overall health. The final decision about what treatment you have is yours.

After our team of specialists reviews the results of your tests and investigations, we will arrange an appointment so you can discuss your treatment options with your consultant and clinical nurse specialist.

Your care may include one or more or a combination of treatments. You have all of these at King’s. You may also be asked if you would like to take part in clinical trials.

Treatments include:

  • Surgery, such as a transplant where the whole liver is replaced or a resection, where the affected part of your liver is removed
  • Chemoembolisation, a type of chemotherapy where the drug is injected directly into the affected part of your liver to kill the cancer cells and cut off the blood supply to the affected area. This is carried out under a local anaesthetic and with sedation
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), where a small probe is passed through the wall of the liver, directly into the tumour. The probe is then heated to kill cancer cells. This is done under a general anaesthetic
  • drug therapies such as Sorafenib - a tablet to slow down the growth of cancer
  • Combined radiotherapy/nuclear medicine therapy such as SIRT (selective internal radiotherapy treatment)

Who to contact

At your first appointment, we will tell you who your key worker is, and how and when you can contact them. Your key worker is usually a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

HCC clinical nurse specialists

Tel: +44 (0)20 3299 5189 or +44 (0)20 3299 3854
E-mail: kch-tr.hpb@nhs.net
Available: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Urgent queries

If you can't contact your key worker or you need to see someone urgently outside of business hours, please contact your GP or visit your local Accident & Emergency Department.

Non-clinical support

For practical queries you can contact the Macmillan Centre at King’s on +44 (0)20 3299 5228, 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Please note the Macmillan Centre cannot help with medical queries, as there are no nurses based at the Centre.

Our team

Your care will be provided by a group of experts called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals specialising in treating your type of cancer. You can discuss your care with them and ask them any questions you have about your treatment. Our team includes:

Consultant Surgeons
  • Professor Nigel Heaton
  • Mr Andreas Prachalias
  • Mr Parthi Srinivasan
Consultant Oncologists
  • Dr Paul Ross
  • Dr Debashis Sarker

How we support you

We want to make sure that you get all the assistance you need to live well with – and after – cancer. There’s a wide range of support available to help you cope with cancer, including physical, emotional and practical advice for you, your family, friends and carers.