Liver Cancer Metastasis — A Secondary Liver Cancer
Liver metastases are cancers that have spread to the liver but started elsewhere in the body. This type of cancer is much different than hepatocellular carcinoma, which is cancer that actually started in the liver.
Of note is that the cancer cells found in liver metastases are not liver cells; rather, they are cells from the part of the body where the cancer started. Other names for liver cancer metastases are secondary liver cancer, metastatic liver cancer, stage IV cancer or advanced cancer.
Types of Liver Cancer Metastasis
The potential for liver cancer metastasis depends on where the original cancer is located.
For example, most liver metastases start in the colon, and up to 70 percent of colon cancer patients eventually develop secondary liver cancer. This may be because the blood supply from the intestines is directly connected to the liver through the portal vein (a large blood vessel).
Liver metastases may be present at the time of your diagnosis of the primary cancer, or you may be diagnosed months or years after tumors are removed.
Cancers of the colon, breast, pancreas, lungs, and ovaries can spread to the liver. In fact, any cancer can.
Colon cancer forms when uncontrolled cell growth occurs in the large intestine (cecum, colon, and rectum).
Most colon cancers start as small, benign (non-cancerous) tumors called adenomatous polyps, forming on the large intestine’s inner walls. Some of the polyps may grow into malignant tumors over time.
Polyps can be removed if found during a colonoscopy — a test that allows your doctor to view the inner walls of the large intestine. But once malignant tumors have formed, cells may travel through the bloodstream and lymph system, spreading to other parts of the body, including the liver.
If colon cancer has spread to your liver, surgical resection is the most effective method for treating colon cancer that has spread to the liver, this according to researchers from the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Other possible therapies are chemotherapy and radiation.