The liver is the organ in the body that is essential for the digestion of food. It filters blood from the intestines, processes nutrients and removes toxins. It also helps maintain the proper blood sugar levels in the body and produces some of the body’s blood clotting factors.
Liver cancer is the growth and spread of unhealthy cells in the liver. The most common form (80%) of liver cancer is called Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC). It begins in the hepatocytes, the main type of liver cell. HCC can have different growth patterns. The most common pattern in the United States is a tentacle-like growth through the liver, although some start as a single tumor that spreads to other parts of the liver.
Other subtypes of primary liver cancer:
Bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), which accounts for10-20% of liver cancer cases, starts in the small tubes that carry the bile made in the liver to the gallbladder, and in the bile ducts that carry bile from the gallbladder to the intestines.
Angiosarcoma and Hemangiosarcomas, which account for 1% of liver cancer patients, are fast growing cancers that originate in the blood vessels of the liver.
It is common for other types of cancers such as colon, stomach, pancreatic, breast or lung cancer to metastasize to the liver. This is not considered primary liver cancer and these liver tumors are treated with regard to their point of origin in the body, not as primary liver cancer.