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Liver Cancer

  • Posted: 04/29/2009

About This Booklet

This National Cancer Institute (NCI) booklet (NIH Publication No. 09-5009) is about cancer that starts in the liver (primary liver cancer). In 2013, about 23,000 men and 8,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer. Most will be over 64 years old.
This booklet is only about cancer that begins in the liver. It isn't about cancer that spreads to the liver from somewhere else.

It's common for cancer to spread (metastasize) to the liver from the colon, lungs, breasts, or other parts of the body. When this happens, the disease is not liver cancer. Instead, the cancer in the liver is named for the organ or the tissue in which it began. For example, colon cancer that spreads to the liver is metastatic colon cancer. It is not liver cancer.

In the United States, metastatic cancer in the liver is far more common than primary liver cancer.

People with metastatic cancer in the liver have different treatment options than those with primary liver cancer. Treatment depends mainly on where the cancer started. Instead of this booklet, you may want to read the NCI fact sheet Metastatic Cancer. The NCI Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) can send you this fact sheet, as well as other information.

Learning about medical care for liver cancer can help you take an active part in making choices about your care. This booklet tells about:

  • Diagnosis and staging
  • Treatment and supportive care
  • Taking part in research studies

This booklet has lists of questions that you may want to ask your doctor. Many people find it helpful to take a list of questions to a doctor visit. To help remember what your doctor says, you can take notes or ask whether you may use a tape recorder. You may also want to have a family member or friend go with you when you talk with the doctor--to take notes, ask questions, or just listen.

This booklet is mainly about adult liver cancer. It does not deal with childhood liver cancer. Information about childhood liver cancer is available on the NCI Web site and from the NCI Cancer Information Service. Call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or instant message us through LiveHelp.