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Liver Cancer

Overview :

Primary liver cancer

Primary liver cancer is a relatively rare disease in the United States, representing about 2% of all

According to the American Cancer Society, 18,920 people in the United States will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer in 2004, and 14,270 persons will die from the disease. The incidence of primary liver cancer has been rising in the United States and Canada since the mid-1990s, most likely as a result of the rising rate of hepatitis C infections.

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 as common in the United States as 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.

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