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Primary cancer originating in the liver is more common in people with advanced liver disease. Our cancer experts work seamlessly with our nationally renowned liver disease experts to give you the best possible care.
Diagram of the biliary system, including the liver
Primary liver cancer tends to develop in several parts of the liver at the same time. When cancer does spread (metastasize) outside the liver, it may move to nearby tissues. It is uncommon for liver cancer to spread to lymph nodes.
There are several types of primary liver cancer:
Hepatocellular carcinoma: Also called hepatoma, this is the most common form of primary liver cancer.
Cholangiocarcinoma: This cancer originates in the lining of the bile channels in the liver or in the bile ducts. Learn more about cholangiocarcinoma.
Hepatoblastoma: This cancer affects infants and children, sometimes causing the release of hormones that result in early puberty. Learn more about hepatoplastoma treatment at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
Angiosarcoma: This rare cancer originates in the blood vessels of the liver. Learn more about soft-tissue sarcoma.
Benign Liver Tumors
Noncancerous (benign) liver tumors are quite common and usually do not produce symptoms. Often, they are not diagnosed until an imaging test is performed for another reason.
There are several types of benign liver tumors:
Hepatocellular adenoma: This benign tumor is linked to the use of some hormonal contraceptives. Most of these tumors remain undetected. Sometimes, an adenoma will rupture and bleed into the abdominal cavity, requiring surgery. Adenomas rarely become cancer.
Hemangioma: This type of benign tumor is a mass of abnormal blood vessels. Treatment is usually not required. Sometimes, infants with large liver hemangiomas require surgery to prevent clotting and heart failure.
Metastatic Liver Cancer
Cancer that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the liver is called metastatic liver cancer, or secondary liver cancer.
These tumors mainly come from cancer in the lung, breast, colon, pancreas, stomach, or blood, though any cancer that can spread can invade the liver.
Treatment for a metastatic liver tumor follows the same protocol as therapy for the original cancer. That means if the cancer spread from the lung, for example, the liver tumor is treated like lung cancer.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.