Secondary liver cancer

We’re specialists in the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating all types of cancer, including advanced cancers that have spread to the liver. Our teams of highly trained cancer specialists work together to evaluate the newest, evidence-based approaches so we can offer these to every patient – without delay.

Chapter 1


Secondary liver cancers, also known as liver cancer metastases, occur when cancer cells spread (metastasise) to the liver from a tumour that started in another part of the body.

The area where the tumour first develops is called primary cancer. Sometimes, cancer cells can break away from the primary tumour and move through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to another part of the body, where they create a new, secondary cancer.

Many cancers can spread to the liver, but it more commonly occurs with cancers that are found in the digestive system. This is because your blood flows from the organs, which make up the digestive system, and passes through your liver on the way back to your heart. These cancers include:

Cancers of the breast, lung and oesophagus, as well as melanoma (skin cancer) and neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), are also more likely to spread to your liver.







Secondary liver cancer diagnosis

How is secondary liver cancer diagnosed?

We understand that this can be a difficult time for you, and we’ll make sure you can get the expert care you need without delay. Most people with secondary liver cancer are diagnosed after knowing they have primary cancer somewhere else.

In some cases, secondary liver cancer may be found before you’ve been diagnosed with primary cancer. If the primary cancer can’t be found, you may hear this called a “cancer of unknown primary”. This might be because it’s too small to be detected, it’s hidden behind a secondary tumour or your immune system removed it.

Doctors typically diagnose secondary liver cancer with a combination of tests. Tests for secondary liver cancer that are available at GenesisCare include:

Secondary liver cancer symptoms

Secondary liver cancer can cause a range of symptoms, and there are treatments we can offer to help alleviate these and improve your quality of life. Your consultant will monitor your health and wellbeing to provide you with care that’s personalised to your needs and choices.

Secondary liver cancer symptoms aren’t always obvious. In some cases, you may not know you have the condition until it is found during a routine test for something else. Possible signs of secondary liver cancer can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling full after eating small amounts
  • Fatigue
  • A general feeling of being unwell
  • Nausea
  • Pain on the right side of your body under your ribs
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • A build-up of fluid in the abdomen, known as ascites

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If you have any of these symptoms, talk to the doctor who is currently treating you or contact us in confidence for fast access to tests and scans. We can also help you with a second opinion for your reassurance.
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Chapter 3

Treatment of secondary liver cancer

Every day it’s becoming more and more possible to remove secondary cancer in the liver through a combination of highly specialist treatments. Our clinical experts work together to develop a treatment plan aimed at getting the best possible outcome for you. Even when it’s not possible to remove secondary cancer completely, there are still treatments that can slow the growth of cancer, prolong survival and alleviate symptoms.

The treatment you’ll have will depend on the site of your primary cancer, the part of your liver that is affected, and whether or not cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Your consultant will assess your symptoms, diagnosis and general health together with a team of oncologists (doctors specialising in cancer), pathologists, radiologists and nurses to decide the best course of treatment for you – while also considering your personal wishes.

At GenesisCare, we’ll support you throughout your treatment and we have a range of the latest secondary liver cancer therapies available. You may be offered one or a combination of drug treatments, radiotherapy, surgery, ablation or embolisation.

There may also be opportunities to access clinical trials for the latest treatments for secondary liver cancer.

Drug treatments for secondary liver cancer

  • Hormone therapy – a range of different treatments which lower hormone levels to control secondary liver cancers from the breast
  • Chemotherapy – anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs that destroy the cancerous cells
  • Targeted therapy – a specialised group of drugs that attack or block certain processes in the cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy – therapies that help your body’s immune system recognise and fight the cancer

Radiotherapy for secondary liver cancer

Radiotherapy uses high-energy radiation beams which are targeted at the cancer cells. For secondary liver cancers, it can help control pain.

At GenesisCare, we use advanced radiotherapy techniques such as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) to treat secondary liver cancer. SABR maximises the delivery of radiation to the cancer, while the surrounding healthy tissues receive a much lower dose, reducing the risk of side effects when compared to other conventional radiotherapy treatments.

Surgery for secondary liver cancer

Surgery isn’t suitable for all secondary liver cancer patients. Eligibility depends on the number and size of secondary liver tumours, where your cancer has spread from, and whether your cancer has spread to other parts of your body as well as your liver. Your surgeon will discuss this with you. Surgery for secondary liver cancer will be arranged conveniently at one of our partner hospitals, your other treatments can then continue at GenesisCare.

Ablation for secondary liver cancer

Ablation uses radio waves or microwaves to destroy the tumour. You may be suitable for secondary liver cancer ablation if you have few small tumours or if other forms of treatment aren’t suitable for you. This could be due to the position of the cancer, making surgery difficult, or you may not be well enough to have surgery.

Advanced radiotherapy
Chapter 4

Why choose us?

GenesisCare is a leading private provider of cancer care, offering the latest innovations and techniques that are proven to be safe and effective. If you choose us for your treatment, you’ll be under the care of a team of experts, including consultant oncologists and surgeons. They’ll design a personalised care plan based on your diagnosis and preferences, with treatment starting within days if needed.

We understand living with cancer can feel overwhelming. That’s why we have partnered with the charity, Penny Brohn UK, to provide personalised wellbeing therapies, such as acupuncture, massage and counselling, to support you throughout this challenging time.

Some of our centres also offer a tailored evidence-based exercise medicine programme, proven to help some people improve treatment tolerance, function, fatigue and quality of life. If you choose to take part, one of our highly trained physiotherapists will provide you with a personalised program of exercises that are adapted to your abilities, goals and diagnosis.

Our dedicated cancer centres are convenient and easy-to-access. You can use your private medical insurance, and we’re recognised by all leading insurers.

Throughout COVID-19, our priority is to continue providing the very best cancer care. We have meticulous measures in place to ensure our patients receive the treatments they need safely and without delay. You can find out more about our COVID-19 safety measures here.

We are proud that so many patients rate our care as excellent as we help them through their cancer journey. Find out more about the unique experiences of people who have had their cancer diagnosis or treatment at GenesisCare in our patient stories section.



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