What Is Metastatic Liver Cancer?

Metastatic (or secondary) liver cancer is a malignant tumor that originates in another part of the body and spreads to the liver via the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Primary liver cancer, which initially develops in the liver, is diagnosed much less frequently than metastatic liver cancer.

The liver is a common metastasis site due to its rich blood supply and hormones (humoral factors) that promote cellular growth. A secondary liver tumor may develop shortly after a primary tumor forms, or many months or years later – even after the primary cancer has been treated. For these reasons, it is important to pay close attention to possible signs of liver metastasis following a cancer diagnosis. The most common symptoms of metastatic liver cancer include persistent vomiting, black stool, jaundice, difficulty swallowing and unexplained weight loss.

Which types of cancer can spread to the liver?

Many liver metastases begin as cancer in the colon or rectum. This is mainly because a large blood vessel (the portal vein) connects the blood supply between the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. Other primary cancers that can potentially spread to the liver include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the anus
  • Sarcoma

How is metastatic liver cancer treated?

Because metastatic liver cancer can be complex and challenging to treat, it is important to seek treatment at a high-volume cancer center, such as Moffitt Cancer Center. The multispecialty team in our renowned Gastrointestinal Oncology Program diagnoses and treats many patients with liver metastases, and we offer the latest advances in surgical approaches and other treatment strategies, including a robust portfolio of clinical trials. We collaboratively develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient with a goal to help him or her achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.

To request an appointment with a gastrointestinal oncologist at Moffitt, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.