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Liver Cancer Types and Stages

Primary liver cancer is cancer that begins in the tissue of the liver. There are two main types of primary liver cancer — hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma (cancer of the bile ducts).

Secondary metastatic liver cancer occurs when cancer spreads to the liver from other parts of the body.

Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Hepatocellular carcinoma, the formation of cancer cells in the tissues of the liver, is the most common type of liver cancer.

Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FHCC) is an extremely rare form of this disease. Fibrous bands throughout the cells of the tumor help doctors diagnose FHCC.

Learn more about hepatocellular carcinoma at the UPMC Liver Cancer Center.

Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer)

Cholangiocarcinoma is liver cancer that occurs in the ducts that drain bile from the liver to the small intestine.

It's a rare form of primary liver cancer. Doctors diagnose between 2,000 and 3,000 people each year in the U.S.

Learn more about cholangiocarcinoma at the UPMC Liver Cancer Center.

Metastatic Liver Cancer

Metastatic liver cancer is a secondary cancer. It occurs when cancer cells have spread to the liver from elsewhere in the body.

Doctors refer to this secondary liver cancer as the same type of cancer as the primary cancer.

For example, if colorectal cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually colorectal cancer cells. Doctors call this metastatic colorectal cancer, not liver cancer.

The most common types of liver metastasis are:

Stages of Liver Cancer

As with most cancers, early diagnosis and intervention are key.

To help decide the stage of the disease, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center liver cancer experts look at:

Using these factors — along with the results of diagnostic imaging tests — your liver cancer care team will assign your disease a stage.

Liver cancer staging is complex. Our experts can explain your disease stage to you in detail.

Contact Us About Liver Cancer Care

To learn more about Liver Cancer or to make an appointment, you can: