Primary liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular cancer, is a cancer that occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of the liver.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of primary liver cancer. In fact, it is the fifth most common cancer in the world, and has been increasing in prevalence in the United States. HCC is a cancer of the hepatocyte (one of the main functional cell types in the liver). Most cases are seen in people with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
Other, less common, types of liver cancers include:
- Cholangiocarcinomas (cancer of the bile ducts)
- Sarcomas and angiosarcomas (connective tissue within the liver)
Unlike primary liver cancer, cancers that originate elsewhere in the body and eventually migrate to the liver are known as liver metastasis or secondary liver cancers. The liver is the most common site (after the lymph nodes) for cancers to spread. Most of these originate from cancers of the colon, rectum, pancreas, stomach, esophagus, breast, lung, melanoma and some other less common sites.
In addition to malignant liver tumors, there are also benign (non-cancerous) liver tumors that may require treatment, such as: Focal Nodular Hyperplasia (FNH) Hemangioma Hepatocellular Adenoma.
Risk Factors for Primary Liver Cancer
The exact cause of primary liver cancer is unknown, however, major risk factors include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Alcohol abuse
- Cirrhosis (buildup of scar tissue in the liver)
- Exposure to toxins
- Anabolic steroid usage
- Family history of liver cancer
- Wilson’s Disease
Liver Cancer Symptoms
Often, liver cancer does not cause symptoms during early stages. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms associated with liver disease often develop, including:
- Pain in the upper abdomen on the right side; the pain may extend to the back and shoulder
- Swollen abdomen (bloating)
- Weight loss, loss of appetite and/or feelings of fullness
- Weakness and/or fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Yellow skin and eyes, and dark urine from jaundice
Expert Care You Can Trust!
Hoag Family Cancer Institute, in close collaboration with physician specialists and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, continues to lead the way in complex hepatobiliary cancer care, providing access to a multidisciplinary team of experts, including a highly specialized surgical team that provides academic-level care. Hoag’s commitment to accurate diagnosis, combined with progressive therapeutic options enables Hoag patients to achieve some of the highest clinical outcomes in the nation.
To schedule a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, or a second-opinion consultation with a Hoag expert, call us at 949-764-5350.