Liver Cancer
(Hepatocellular Carcinoma)

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What is liver cancer?

Liver cancer is a condition that happens when normal cells in the liver become abnormal and grow out of control into cancer.

Malignant or cancerous cells that arise out of the liver cells are called hepatocellular carcinoma, and cancer that arises in the ducts of the liver is called cholangiocarcinoma.

What is metastatic liver cancer?

Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from the place where it first started to another place in the body. Metastatic liver cancer is a condition where cancer from other organs has spread to the liver. Here the liver cells are basically normal. Metastatic cancer has the same name and same type of cancer cells as the original cancer. The most common cancers that spread to the liver are breast, colon, bladder, kidney, ovary, pancreas, stomach, uterus, and lungs.

Some people with metastatic tumors do not have symptoms. Their metastases are found by X-rays or other tests. Abdominal swelling or jaundice (yellowing of the skin) can indicate cancer has spread to the liver.

What causes liver cancer?

Most people who get liver cancer get it in the setting of chronic liver disease (long-term liver damage called cirrhosis), which scars the liver and increases the risk for liver cancer. Conditions that cause cirrhosis are alcohol use/abuse, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

The risk factors for liver cancer in cirrhosis include being male, age 55 years or older, Asian or Hispanic ethnicity, family history of liver cancer in a first-degree relative, obesity, hepatitis B and C, alcohol use, and elevated iron content in the blood.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/20/2014

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Liver Cancer Symptoms

Malignant tumors of the liver are most commonly metastases, or areas of distant spread, from tumors that arise elsewhere in the body. These tumors are not true liver cancers; instead they are named by their site of origin, such as lung cancer metastatic to the liver. True liver cancers are malignancies that arise in the cells of the liver.