What Is Liver Cancer?

Your liver is the largest organ inside your body and is located in the upper right side of your abdomen, under the ribs and above your stomach. Your liver performs many essential functions you need to maintain good health, including:

Medical illustration of liver anatomy
The liver, located in the upper abdomen, produces enzymes and bile needed to digest food.
  • Filtering harmful substances from your blood
  • Producing bile, a fluid which helps you digest fats
  • Storing sugar and releases it when your body needs energy
  • Making globin which is necessary for making hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carry oxygen
  • Storing iron, vitamins and minerals

Liver cancer occurs when cells that make up the liver become damaged and grow and multiply without order or control. When old cells don’t die when they should and new cells are made when you don’t need them, they form an abnormal accumulation of cells, called a tumor. These tumors may be benign, which means they are noncancerous, or malignant, which means it is cancer.

  • Primary Liver Cancer begins in cells of the liver
  • Secondary Liver Cancer refers to cancer that began in another organ such as the colon, lung or breast, and spread (metastasized) to the liver. Secondary liver tumors are also called liver metastases. Roswell Park offers many liver-directed treatments that are used for both primary and secondary liver tumors.
  • Biliary Cancer, also called bile duct cancer or cholangiocarcinoma begins in the bile ducts within or leading from the liver.

Liver cancer diagnosis