About Liver Cancer


Care for liver cancer patients at UCLA is provided by the UCLA Liver Cancer Program, which is administered through the Division of Liver and Pancreas Transplantation. Clinical care services for the Liver Cancer Program are facilitated primarily by the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center at UCLA. Additional services may also be offered through the Pfleger Liver Institute and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Metastatic Liver Cancer

Liver DiagramThere are two types of liver cancer. Primary liver cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the liver. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that spreads to the liver from another part of the body. Most primary liver cancers begin in liver cells (called hepatocytes). This type of cancer is called hepatocellular carcinoma or malignant hepatoma.

Liver cancer cells can also spread by breaking away from the original tumor. They mainly spread by entering blood vessels, but liver cancer cells can also be found in lymph nodes. The cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues.

When cancer spreads from its original place to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if liver cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually liver cancer cells. The disease is metastatic liver cancer, not bone cancer. It's treated as liver cancer, not bone cancer. Doctors sometimes call the new tumor "distant" or metastatic disease.


If liver cancer is diagnosed, your doctor needs to learn the extent (stage) of the disease to help you choose the best treatment. Staging is an attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread, and if so, to what parts of the body.