Liver cancer is a cancer that starts in the liver, a large organ in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. There are different forms of liver cancer. The liver is made up of different types of cells and many types of tumors can form in the liver. If the abnormal cells start from cells within the liver, the resulting collection of cells is called a primary liver tumor. Some liver tumors are benign, which means that they are not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant liver tumors, however, can invade other organs and spread throughout the body.
Most of the time when cancer is found in the liver it did not start there. Most times the cancer started somewhere else and then spread to the liver. In this case, it is called metastatic cancer.
Liver cancer is more common in men than in women. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 23,000 cases of primary liver cancer will be seen in one year. After liver cancer is identified and staged, your doctor will recommend one or more treatment options. Choosing a treatment plan is a major decision. Take time and think about all of your choices. When planning your treatment, it is important to take into account the stage (extent) of the cancer. But you and your cancer care team will also want to think about your age, general state of health, and personal preferences.
Liver cancer can be treated surgically, with chemotherapy or with radiation therapy. This type of cancer may be difficult to treat however, because of the associated breathing that moves the diaphragm and liver up and down during treatment. This is especially true in the case of external beam radiation therapy where in some cases the patient may have to hold their breath temporarily during treatment beams.