Liver cancer is a form of cancer with a high mortality rate. Liver cancers can be classified into two types. They are either primary, when the cancer starts in the liver itself, or metastatic, when the cancer has spread to the liver from some other part of the body.
Description and demographics
Primary liver cancer
Primary liver cancer is a relatively rare disease in the United States, representing about 2% of all malignancies and 4% of newly diagnosed cancers. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the top eight most common cancers in the world. It is, however, much more common outside the United States, representing 10% to 50% of malignancies in Africa and parts of Asia. Rates of HCC in men are at least two to three times higher than for women. In high-risk areas (East and Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa), men are even more likely to have HCC than women.
TYPES OF PRIMARY LIVER CANCER.
In adults, most primary liver cancers belong to one of two types: hepatomas, or hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC), which start in the liver tissue itself; and cholangiomas, or cholangiocarcinomas, which are cancers that develop in the bile ducts inside the liver. About 80% to 90% of primary liver cancers are hepatomas. In the United States, about five persons in every 200, 000 will develop a hepatoma (70% to 75% of cases of primary liver cancers are HCC). In Africa and Asia, over 40 persons in 200, 000 will develop this form of cancer (more than 90% of cases of primary liver are HCC). Two rare types of primary liver cancer are mixed-cell tumors and Kupffer cell sarcomas.
One type of primary liver cancer, called a hepatoblastoma, usually occurs in children younger than four years of age and between the ages of 12 and 15. Unlike liver cancers in adults, hepatoblastomas have a good chance of being treated successfully. Approximately 70% of children with hepatoblastomas experience complete cures. If the tumor is detected early, the survival rate is over 90%.
Metastatic liver cancer
The second major category of liver cancer, metastatic liver cancer, is about 20 times more common in the United States than primary liver cancer. Because blood from all parts of the body must pass through the liver for filtration, cancer cells from other organs and tissues easily reach the liver, where they can lodge and grow into secondary tumors. Primary cancers in the colon, stomach, pancreas, rectum, esophagus, breast, lung, or skin are the most likely to metastasize (spread) to the liver. It is not unusual for the metastatic cancer in the liver to be the first noticeable sign of a cancer that started in another organ. After cirrhosis, metastatic liver cancer is the most common cause of fatal liver disease.
Rebecca J. Frey Ph.D, Laura Ruth Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,