Liver cancer

The liver is made up mainly of cells called hepatocytes that can form cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. Liver cancer starts when cells in the liver begin to grow out of control.

Primary liver cancer begins in the hepatocyte cells of the liver. The most common type of primary liver cancer is called hepatocellular carcinoma. Secondary liver cancer spreads to the liver from somewhere else in the body.

Liver cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and the fastest-growing cause of cancer death.

Five-year liver cancer survival rates

Chart comparing all stages Liver Cancer UCHealth 24.7% survival rate to Colorado state average of 17%

Chart comparing stage 1 Liver Cancer UCHealth 44% survival rate to Colorado state average of 31.2%

Chart comparing stage 2 Lung Cancer UCHealth 39.3% survival rate to Colorado state average of 38.5%

 

Chart comparing stage 3 Liver Cancer UCHealth 17.1% survival rate to Colorado state average of 6.9%

Chart comparing stage 4 Liver Cancer UCHealth 8.8% survival rate to Colorado state average of 3.7%

 

Number of Patients Diagnosed – UCHealth 561 – State of Colorado – 1,693
Number of Patients Surviving – UCHealth 139 – State of Colorado – 288
*n<30, 5 Year Survival – (Date of diagnosis 1/1/2010–12/31/2014)

Overview

The liver is the largest internal organ that lives in the upper right portion of the abdomen beneath the lung. The liver’s primary function is to regulate most chemical levels in the blood and excrete a product called bile. This helps carry away waste products from the liver.

Liver cancer starts when cells in the liver begin to grow out of control. These cells, called hepatocytes, can form cancerous and non-cancerous tumors.

Primary liver cancer forms in the liver and begins in the hepatocyte cells of the liver. The most common type of primary liver cancer is called hepatocellular carcinoma.

Secondary liver cancer, cancer that spreads, or metastasizes, to the liver from somewhere else in the body, is more common than primary liver cancer. Cancer that originates in another part of the body such as lung, esophagus, or colon then migrates to the liver is called liver metastasis or hepatic metastasis and is named for the organ in which it began.

Man in greenhouse holding tray of seedlings

How do you get liver cancer?

Grandfather and child smiling at park

Liver cancer is caused by DNA changes or mutations that occur within healthy cells.

Normal cells in the body go through a life cycle, where they grow and divide to form new cells, and then die when the body no longer needs them. Cells contain DNA that tells the cell what to do. When a cell’s DNA is damaged, cells continue to grow and divide where they aren’t needed by the body. This buildup of cells becomes a tumor.

Certain chemicals can cause damage to the DNA in the liver cells and this damage can cause abnormal or mutated cells to grow. The hepatitis virus and chronic hepatitis infections are also known to cause liver cancer.