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What are the types of liver cancer?
Liver cancer can begin in the liver or other parts of the body. Primary liver cancer begins in the liver. Metastatic liver cancer starts somewhere else in the body and metastasizes (spreads) to the liver.
The liver is a common place where cancer spreads. Its large size and high blood flow make it a prime target for tumor cells moving through the bloodstream. Colorectal, breast and lung cancers are the most common sources of metastatic liver cancer.
The information here focuses on primary liver cancer. The main types of primary liver cancer are:
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): Most primary liver cancers are HCC. They begin in hepatocyte cells. Sometimes they begin as a single tumor; other times they start in multiple spots in the liver. The latter is more common in people with liver damage, such as cirrhosis, and is more prevalent in this country.
Fibrolamellar HCC is a rare subtype that often has a higher chance for successful treatment than other types of liver cancer.
Bile duct cancers (cholangiocarcinomas): One or two of every 10 cases of liver cancer start in the bile ducts, which are small tubes that carry bile to the gallbladder. They are treated in the same way as HCC.
Angiosarcomas and hemangiosarcomas begin in blood vessels in the liver. These fast-growing liver cancers usually are not diagnosed until they are in advanced stages.
Hepatoblastoma: A very rare type of liver cancer, this most often is found in children. The survival rate is more than 90% if the cancer is caught early.
In addition to cancerous tumors, some tumors in the liver are benign (non-cancerous) but grow large and cause problems. Usually these can be removed by surgery.
What does the liver do?
The liver is pyramid-shaped and located under your right ribs. It has two sections called lobes. It is different from most organs because it has two blood sources:
- The hepatic artery brings in oxygen-rich blood
- The portal vein supplies nutrient-rich blood from the intestines
The liver is vital. You can’t live without it. Some of its important functions are to:
- Break down and store nutrients from the intestine
- Manufacture some of the clotting factors your body needs to stop bleeding
- Make bile that helps the intestine absorb nutrients
- Help get rid of waste
Learn more about liver cancer:
Why choose MD Anderson for your liver cancer treatment?
Your treatment plan is personalized to include the most advanced therapies, while focusing on your quality of life. Liver cancer treatment options may include:
- New forms of chemotherapy, including sorafenib, that target the blood vessels that keep tumors alive
- Hepatic artery infusion to deliver chemotherapy directly to the liver
- Proton therapy
- Targeted therapies to help your body fight liver cancer
A team of experts, including medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, specialized pathologists, as well as a specially trained support staff, collaborate and communicate frequently about your case. For you, this means comprehensive, but focused, care for liver cancer.
Our physicians have at their fingertips the most modern techniques and technology to diagnose and treat liver cancer. And they use them with extraordinary skill.
Surgery for liver cancer often is complex and challenging. Your best chance for a successful outcome is with a surgeon who has a high degree of experience and skill in these highly specialized procedures.
Because MD Anderson is one of the nation's most active cancer centers, our surgeons use the latest methods to perform a large number of delicate liver cancer surgeries each year, with higher chance for successful treatment than many other cancer centers.
And, at MD Anderson you're surrounded by the strength of one of the nation's largest and most experienced comprehensive cancer centers, which has all the support and wellness services needed to treat the whole person – not just the disease.
As one of the nation's leading research centers, MD Anderson is able to offer clinical trials of new treatments for liver cancer.
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