About Liver Cancer

The University of Michigan has one of the nation's first and most respected multidisciplinary liver tumor programs -- providing patients with comprehensive care, and offering treatment options not available at most other medical centers in the country.

There are two types of liver cancer, primary liver cancer and secondary liver cancer (hepatic metastasis). Unlike secondary cancers which metastasize, that is, they start in another part of the body and spread to the liver, primary liver cancer begins from cells inside the liver.

The two most common forms of primary liver cancer are:

  • hepatocellular carcinoma (also called hepatoma or HCC)
  • cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)

The good news is that many liver cancer tumors are very treatable with the possibility for long, disease-free survival.

The most common form of secondary liver cancer is due to colorectal cancer metastases. If the disease is isolated to the liver, then patients may be candidates for liver directed therapies such as surgery, ablation, or chemoembolization.

Who's at Risk for Liver Cancer?

Risk factors for hepatoma include most forms of chronic liver disease such as:

Risk factors for bile duct cancer include chronic diseases of the bile ducts such as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

Risk factors for secondary malignancy such as colorectal metastasis include a current or previous diagnosis of colorectal adenocarcinoma.

Liver Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Liver cancer is sometimes found on an ultrasound screening or during radiographic tests such as CT or MRI, and is still without symptoms. In other cases, patients develop abdominal pain and symptoms of liver dysfunction such as:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Weight loss
  • Fluid accumulation/swelling

Other liver cancer signs that may be noted on radiologic (imaging) testing include:

  • Liver mass
  • Bile duct obstruction

Continue learning by reading about Diagnosis and Treatment.

Still have questions?

The nurses at Cancer AnswerLine™ have answers. Call 1-800-865-1125 and you'll get a personal response from one of our registered nurses, who have years of experience in caring for people with cancer.

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