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Liver Cancer (cont.)

What Is Liver Cancer?

Usually, when people speak of liver cancer, they mean a cancer that has begun somewhere else in the body and then spread to the liver. This is called metastatic disease or metastases. Due partly to its very high blood flow and local production of growth-enhancing molecules, the liver is one of the most common places for metastases to take root. Tumors that originally arise in the colon, pancreas, stomach, lung, breast, or elsewhere can spread to the liver, sometimes causing pain or damaging liver function. In the Western Hemisphere, most cases of liver cancer actually are cancers that started in another organ.

Sometimes, cancer may arise in the cells of the liver itself. Cancer of the hepatocytes (the main functioning liver cell) is a primary liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma or hepatoma. Hepatoma usually grows in the liver as one or more round tumors, invading and destroying the normal tissue as it expands. Cancer of the bile duct cells is called cholangiocarcinoma. Cholangiocarcinoma generally grows along the bile ducts in sheets or finger-like lines, making it harder to identify on X-ray studies.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2013

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