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About The Liver

The liver is the largest organ inside the body, and its functions are essential for the digestion of food. It lies under your right ribs, just below the right lung. No one can survive without a liver. The liver is shaped like a pyramid and is divided into right and left lobes. Function of the liver include:

  1. Collecting and filtering blood from the intestines
  2. Processing and storing needed nutrients absorbed by the intestines
  3. Chemically changing (metabolizing) some nutrients into energy or to repair and build tissue
  4. Producing some of the body's blood clotting factors
  5. Removing toxins from the body
  6. Helping maintain the proper sugar level in the body

What is Liver Cancer?

The liver continuously filters blood that circulates through the body, converting nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals. The liver performs many other important functions, such as removing toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood and readying them for excretion. Because all the blood in the body must pass through it, the liver is unusually accessible to cancer cells travelling in the bloodstream.

The liver can be affected by primary liver cancer, which arises in the liver, or by cancer which forms in other parts of the body and then spreads to the liver. Most liver cancer is secondary or metastatic, meaning it started elsewhere in the body.

Because the liver is made up of several different types of cells, several types of tumors can form there. Some of these are benign (noncancerous) and some are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors have different causes and are treated differently. The outlook for health or recovery depends on what type of tumor you have.

The more common benign tumors of the liver include:

»  Hemangioma                                 »  Hepatic adenoma

»  Focal nodular hyperplasia               »  Cysts

»  Lipoma                                         »  Fibroma

»  Leiomyoma

None of these tumors are treated like cancer. They may need to be removed surgically if they cause pain or bleeding.

Liver cancers include:

»  Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

»  Cholangiocarcinoma (These are really cancers of the bile duct)

Types of Liver Cancer

  1. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
    • Hepatocellular carcinoma can have different growth patterns. Some spread tentacle-like growths through the liver. Some start as a single tumor that spreads to other parts of the liver as the disease develops. Others develop as nodules at several different places in the liver. Occasionally, a pattern isn't clear.
  2. Cholangiocarcinoma (also called bile duct cancer)
    • Cholangiocarcinomas grow from cells in the bile duct of the liver. The bile duct is a thin tube that extends from the liver to the small intestine. The bile duct starts inside the liver as several smaller tubes that join together.
  3. Angiosarcoma
    • Angiosarcoma starts in the blood vessels of the liver and grows very quickly.