Beating Liver Cancer in Africa

Small steps to improve awareness, prevention, surveillance and care can go a long way to reduce the impact of liver cancer across Africa

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related death in the world1 and in Africa, research has found that hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)—the most common form of liver cancer — occurs at an earlier age, particularly when it is associated with chronic hepatitis B. Today, the median age of diagnosis of hepatitis B virus-associated HCC in Africa is only 42 years old2. HCC is sometimes called a “silent killer,” because most people do not have symptoms alerting them to seek medical care. 

Worryingly, rates of liver disease and liver cancer are increasing. Despite well-known and preventable risk factors, HCC incidence and mortality are also predicted to increase in African countries that are constrained by limited resources to combat endemic levels of viral infection and environmental risk factors3.  

A coordinated, tactical effort is needed to beat liver cancer

The risk factors for liver cancer, including HCC, can, in many cases, be managed and there are actions that both individuals and health care providers can take to help reduce the incidence of this cancer and improve chances of survival. 

Roche is working with partners across Africa to improve liver health through strengthened integrated care delivery, with a focus on early detection of liver disease and increased awareness of

Beating Liver Cancer in Africa: A Little Action Goes a Long Way

To make a lasting impact in the fight against liver cancer, we know both patient advocates and health care providers have a critical role to play. 

In 2021, Roche convened global liver cancer patient advocates, to build their capacity and to consider how digital tools can be deployed to help build awareness among at-risk populations and ultimately, increase liver cancer screenings and early detection.

Roche also convened seven meetings between July and September 2021 to support local HCPs to build their capacity and understanding of liver cancer so that if awareness is raised and patients

attend clinics, they are ready to diagnose the condition. Approximately 400 HCPs attended the first event in July, and this strong level of interest and engagement will be the foundation for additional future meetings and training sessions.

Through a targeted digital campaign - #ALittleActionGoesALongWay -  Roche, patient advocates and health care providers are coming together to encourage people at risk to take action for their liver health, and to encourage health care providers at all levels to start a conversation about liver health with their patients.

The campaign emphasizes that a little bit of care can go a long way in preventing liver disease and liver cancers, because we know that every day, people already make decisions that affect their short-term health: how much to sleep, what to eat, how much alcohol to consume. By asking people to consider their long-term health too, they can have more peace of mind to live life to the fullest. 

From taking manageable but  important steps like going for routine checkups even if they seem healthy, to seeing a doctor for a concern that hasn’t gone away on its own and understanding their own risk factors that might lead to liver disease or even cancer - taking little steps can go a long way in improving your health.

The bottom line is: a little more attention to well-being, a little more self-care, and a little more urgency can make a big difference.

Signs and symptoms of HCC may not appear until advanced stages of disease, but some people may experience:
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness

  • Easy bruising or bleeding

  • Enlarged abdomen

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Jaundice (yellowness of eyes)

Individuals can take action to improve liver health:
  • Get screened and vaccinated for hepatitis B 

  • Learn more about lifestyle risk factors

  • Limit alcohol consumption

  • Limit consumption of fatty foods and maintain a healthy body weight

  • Visit a health care provider for regular check ups and ask about your liver health

  • Talk to your doctor about liver cancer

A tailored approach

We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and our approach to liver cancer must be customised to the unique needs of people in each country. Beating liver cancer will take a broad network of partners to achieve, but we want to co-create a way forward to reach this common goal and contribute our experience, expertise, resources and talent to the effort.

Now is the time to work together, to fight liver cancer in Africa and improve health for all.


  1.  Globocan 2020, “Liver.”

  2. Yang JD, Gyedu A, Afihene MY, Duduyemi BM, Micah E, Kingham TP, Nyirenda M, Nkansah AA, Bandoh S, Duguru MJ, Okeke EN, Kouakou-Lohoues MJ, Abdo A, Awuku YA, Ajayi AO, Omonisi AE, Ocama P, Malu AO, Mustapha S, Okonkwo U, Kooffreh-Ada M, Debes JD, Onyekwere C, Ekere F, Rufina I, Roberts LR; Africa Network for Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases. Hepatocellular Carcinoma Occurs at an Earlier Age in Africans, Particularly in Association With Chronic Hepatitis B. Am J Gastroenterol. 2015 Nov;110(11):1629-31. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2015.289. PMID: 26618430.

  3.  Okeke E, Davwar PM, Roberts L, Sartorius K, Spearman W, Malu A, Duguru M. Epidemiology of Liver Cancer in Africa: Current and Future Trends. Semin Liver Dis. 2020 May;40(2):111-123. doi: 10.1055/s-0039-3399566. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31726474.

  4. Moon AM, Singal AG, Tapper EB. Contemporary epidemiology of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020;18(12):2650-2666.

  5. Asrani SK, et al. Burden of liver diseases in the world. Journal of Hepatology. 2019;70(1):151–171.

  6. Global Burden of Disease Study. 2019. [Internet; cited 6 January 2021]. Available from: 

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