Primary Liver Cancer

Liver cancer typically starts as a solid tumor within the liver but can grow larger and move to other sites within the liver, lungs, or lymph nodes. Liver cancer often goes undetected until the disease is advanced.

Types of Liver Cancer

The most common type of primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC originates from liver cells, called hepatocytes, and typically occurs in patients with underlying liver cirrhosis.

The most common risk factors for liver cirrhosis and HCC include chronic hepatitis B or C infection, heavy alcohol use, and fatty liver disease.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a primary liver tumor that involves the bile ducts within the liver. Similar to HCC, symptoms are often absent at an early stage.

Fibrolamellar carcinoma is typically a slow-growing cancer and most often involves patients of a younger age.

Liver Cancer Symptoms

Early-stage liver cancer typically does not exhibit symptoms. However, as tumors grow, symptoms may include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of the legs or abdomen

Individualized Treatment

UT Southwestern’s multidisciplinary liver cancer team works together to form an individualized treatment plan for each patient. The team meets weekly to review patient cases and discuss treatment. Each member brings a variety of clinical perspectives and experience to help develop a plan based on each patient’s specific needs.

Treatment may include:

Liver Transplantation

Liver transplantation may be an option for patients with small primary liver cancers. Studies have shown the five-year survival rate to be nearly 70 percent. UT Southwestern is a certified transplant center.


Surgical removal of the cancerous portion of the liver may offer patients up to a 70 percent chance of a five-year survival rate. Our surgeons frequently use minimally invasive surgical techniques, which leave smaller scars, reduce post-operative pain, and allow faster recovery and shorter length of hospitalization.

Locoregional Therapy

Locoregional therapies include radiofrequency ablation (radiofrequency waves are directed through a needle into a tumor to destroy it), chemoembolization (chemotherapy beads are injected directly into a liver tumor), and radioembolization (radioactive beads are injected into a liver tumor).

Stereotactic Radiation Therapy

Stereotactic radiation therapy concentrates radiation beams on the liver tumor, while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.


Chemotherapy cannot cure the liver tumor but has been shown to prolong survival.

Clinical Trials

We have a long-standing commitment to improving the detection and treatment of primary liver cancer, with a goal of developing more effective therapies for this disease. Our team of physician-scientists is working to develop novel biologic therapies that stop liver cancer cells from replicating or target the blood vessels that nourish liver tumors.

How We’re Different

Our team of physicians and supportive staff has developed an approach that includes standard therapies from all disciplines as well as the newest, most innovative clinical trial opportunities for patients with liver cancer. Our single-site, multidisciplinary clinic offers patients a unique opportunity to receive the most comprehensive, coordinated, and convenient care possible.

Request an Appointment

For an appointment at our facility in Dallas or for more information about our gastrointestinal cancer services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.