Liver Cancer Health Center

Most primary liver cancers begin in hepatocytes (liver cells). This type of cancer is called hepatocellular carcinoma or malignant hepatoma.

Liver cancer cells can 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.

Growths in the liver can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign tumors are not as harmful as malignant tumors:

Benign tumors:

  • are rarely a threat to life
  • can be removed and usually don't grow back
  • don't invade the tissues around them
  • don't spread to other parts of the body

Malignant growths:

  • may be a threat to life
  • sometimes can be removed but can grow back
  • can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs (such as the stomach or intestine)
  • can spread to other parts of the body
Review Date: 
March 27, 2012
Last Updated:
July 1, 2013