Liver cancer

Liver cancer, the so-called "silent killer", is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and has a poor prognosis for those who are diagnosed with the disease at a later stage. The liver can regenerate, but certain risk factors due to our genes or lifestyle and environment make liver cancer a common and increasingly common cancer.

Liver cancer is now globally the third most common cause of cancer death, and it is estimated that the number of deaths due to liver cancer will increase in the future.1 In fact, approximately 940 people are diagnosed with liver cancer in Switzerland each year, of which approximately 850 suffer from the most common form of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).1 Unfortunately, the majority of diagnoses occur in the late stages of the disease, resulting in an overall survival rate of less than 16% after five years.3 Disappointingly, we know that many cases are preventable, so why is this cancer on the rise?1,4,5

Who gets liver cancer?

The rise in liver cancer is partly due to the fact that unhealthy diets and obesity are increasing very strongly in the population. 6,7 Other important risk factors for liver cancer are: 2,8

  • Hepatitis B and C virus infections

  • Alcohol

  • Smoking

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver

  • Aflatoxins (through contamination of food)*

How do you know if you have liver cancer?

The following symptoms may occur:

  • Abdominal pain/enlarged abdomen

  • Minor bleeding or bruising

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Jaundice

Unfortunately, the symptoms of HCC often only appear in the advanced stages of the disease.

How curable is liver cancer and what is the life expectancy with liver cancer?

Early diagnosis offers the best chance of cure. However, despite advances in the way liver cancer is diagnosed, doctors still face a major challenge in diagnosing the disease early enough:

  • Approximately 20 to 43% of liver cancer patients are diagnosed at an early stage.2, 9,10

  • Of those HCC patients diagnosed with late-stage disease, less than 16% survive beyond 5 years.5

  • If HCC is diagnosed at an early stage, the survival rate of patients after 5 years is more than 70%.5

Therefore, diagnosing HCC as early as possible is critical to improving treatment outcomes.

Currently, people at high risk of liver cancer can undergo ultrasound, which can detect early-stage HCC with a sensitivity of 45%.11 Combining ultrasound with blood tests to determine protein levels can increase the detection of early stages by 18%.11 Furthermore, additional blood tests, in combination with the patient's age and gender, can indicate in an algorithm whether a patient should undergo further diagnostic tests to determine HCC.12,13

Our ambition is to make further advances in the field of liver cancer to improve the lives of those affected. We believe that people with HCC deserve more options, and our hope for the future is to offer a supportive hand to those who need it.

*Aflatoxins are toxins (poisons) produced by certain fungi that can lead to the contamination of foods such as Cereals, rice and nuts if they are not stored properly


  1. Krebsliga Schweiz. Krebs in der Schweiz. wichtige Zahlen: available from:

  2. Llovet J, et al. Hepatocellular carcinoma. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016;2:16018.

  3. Tsuchiya, Nobuhiro et al World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Oct 7; 21(37): 10573–10583.

  4. Moon, et al.Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol . 2020 Nov;18(12): 2650-2666. 

  5. Asrani et al. Journal of Hepatology 2019. Jan;70(1):151-171.

  6. Islami F, et al. Disparities in liver cancer occurrence in the United States by race / ethnicity and state. Ca Cancer J Clin. 2017;67:273–289. 

  7. Pimpin L, et al. Burden of liver disease in Europe: Epidemiology and analysis of risk factors to identify prevention policies. J Hepatol. 2018;69:718–735

  8. Medline. [Internet; cited 2022 october 4]. Available from:

  9. cancer.net [Internet; cited 2022 October 4]. Available from:

  10. CCO. [Internet; cited 2022 october 4]. Available from:

  11. Philip J Johnson et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Jan;23(1):144-53

  12. Singal et al. (2022) HCC surveillance improves early detection, curative treatment receipt, and survival in patients with cirrhosis: A meta-analysis. J Hepatol 2022 Jul;77(1):128-139. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2022.01.023

  13. Henry Chan et al. JGH Open: An open access journal of gastroenterology and hepatology 6 (2022) 292–300

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