Liver cancer information

The liver is an organ that many people don’t understand. What is its job? It is one of your most vital organs. It’s also the largest. It sits inside your abdomen, behind your ribs, on the right side of your body.

Your liver performs several important jobs:

  • Removes harmful substances from your blood
  • Makes enzymes and bile that help digest food
  • Changes food into substances that your body needs to stay healthy

Your liver gets blood from two different vessels:

  • The majority is from the hepatic portal vein
  • The rest is from the hepatic artery

Jaundice is a common side effect when the liver is not working properly. Bilirubin (a product of bile) builds up in the skin instead of being removed by the liver. This build up causes a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Patient urine may appear darker and stools may appear lighter.

If you have questions about liver cancer, utilize our askSARAH service to communicate directly with an experienced nurse. The askSARAH service is available 24/7 and our staff is on standby whenever you need us.

Primary Liver Cancer vs. Liver Metastases

Cancer that starts in an organ is called primary cancer. For example, if cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer. If cancer begins in the lung, it is called lung cancer. Liver cancer is unusual because primary liver cancer is not common. This means most cancer doesn’t start in the liver. Instead, your liver is a common place for cancer to spread. Cancer in the colon, lungs, breasts or other parts of the body commonly spreads to your liver. This spreading process is called metastasis. When this happens, the disease is not liver cancer. Instead, cancer found in your liver is named for the organ or tissue where it started. For instance, if breast cancer spreads to your liver, it is metastatic breast cancer. It is not liver cancer. In the U.S., liver metastases are much more common than primary liver cancer.

Primary liver cancer cells start in hepatocytes. These are your liver cells. Primary liver cancer is also called hepatocellular carcinoma or malignant hepatoma.

It is important to know whether you have primary liver cancer or cancer that has spread to your liver from another organ (known as liver metastases) because this may impact your treatment plan.