What is Liver Cancer?

Liver Cancer

Primary liver cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the liver. The liver, one of the largest organs in the human body, is located on the right side of the abdomen and is protected by the rib cage. The liver has three important functions: it filters and removes waste and toxins from the blood; it makes bile which breaks down fats in the digestive process; and it stores energy in the form of glycogen, a type of sugar.


Although many cancers are declining in the United States, new cases of primary liver cancer are increasing. Still, primary liver cancer is relatively uncommon with 21,370 new cases diagnosed in 2008.

Secondary liver cancer is very different from primary liver cancer. This cancer begins in another part of the body and then spreads to the liver. Its treatment is unique for each patient.

In the U.S., cancer affecting the liver is most commonly secondary cancer, and it most often spreads from colon, lung, and breast cancers. When this happens, the disease is not liver cancer. It is named for the organ where it began, and the cancer in the liver is secondary.

Primary liver cancer is rarely diagnosed early, and it often doesn’t respond to current treatments, making the prognosis poor. Treatments can help pain and other symptoms of liver cancer and improve quality of life. The following information is about primary liver cancer. Chances of developing primary liver cancer can be greatly reduced by protection from hepatitis and cirrhosis, which are the leading causes of the disease.

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