Primary liver cancer begins in the cells of the liver itself. Although many cancers are declining in the United States, new cases of primary liver cancer are increasing and are likely to continue to increase for the next two decades.
Liver cancer also occurs as metastatic cancer, which happens when tumors from other parts of the body spread (metastasize) to the liver. In the U.S., most cancer found in the liver spread there after originating elsewhere.
Rather than being called liver cancer, this type of cancer in the liver is named after the organ in which it began — such as metastatic colon cancer in cancer that starts in the colon and spreads to the liver.
Because liver cancer is rarely discovered early and is difficult to control with current treatments, the prognosis is often poor. Even when treatments fail to provide much improvement, however, they often can help control pain and improve quality of life. But the most important news about primary liver cancer is that you can greatly reduce your risk by protecting yourself from hepatitis infection and cirrhosis, the leading causes of the disease.