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If cancer spreads to the liver…..


If cancer spreads to a the liver, or a different area of the body, it is known by several different terms:  stage 4 cancer, advanced cancer, or metastatic cancer. When cancer does spread to the liver or other parts of the body, it is still named after the original cancer and treatment is also based on where the cancer began. For example, if colorectal cancer spreads to the liver, it is still colorectal cancer (not liver cancer), and the doctor will recommend treatments that have been shown to help treat advanced colorectal cancer. Likewise, pancreatic cancer that has spread to the liver is still pancreatic cancer, not liver cancer, and is treated as advanced pancreatic cancer.


The origin of the cancer often helps determine where it will spread. Most cancer cells that break free from the original tumor are carried in the blood or lymph until they get trapped in the next “downstream” organ or set of lymph nodes. Once the cells travel to this area, they can start new tumors.


The following provides a description of where certain cancers are most likely to spread, though it can spread other places as well.


Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer tends to stay in the same area (the pelvis) and grow into nearby tissues such as the pelvic wall. It can also spread to the lungs, liver, and bone.


Breast Cancer

Breast cancer most commonly spreads to the bones, but also can spread to the liver, lungs, and brain. As the cancer progresses, it may affect any organ. It can also spread to the skin of the chest (near where the cancer started).


Cervical Cancer

Cervical tends to grow near where it started, into the vagina and uterus and then other parts of the pelvis, such as the rectum and bladder. It can also grow into the bones and nerves of the spine, and spread to the liver, lungs, and bones.


Colorectal Cancer

The most common sites for colorectal cancer to spread are the liver and lungs. Colorectal cancer may also spread to nearly any other organ, including the bones and brain.  It can also spread within in the pelvis, where the cancer started.


Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer mostly grows near where it started (in the chest and belly). As it progresses, it may grow into nearby organs like the liver and lungs.


Gastric Cancer

Gastric, or stomach cancer, tends to spread to nearby tissues and stay within the abdomen (belly). It may also spread to the liver or distant lymph nodes. Spread to the lungs, bones, and brain is less common.


Liver Cancer

Liver cancer doesn’t often spread outside the liver. It tends to grow throughout the liver as it becomes advanced. If it does spread, it’s most often to the lungs or bones.


Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can spread to almost any organ of the body, but most often it will spread to the adrenal glands, liver, bones, or brain. It can also spread to the other lung.



Melanoma can spread anywhere in the body. It first tends to go to lymph nodes near where it started, but then can spread to the brain, lungs, liver, and bones. It can also spread to other areas of skin.


Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer most often spreads to the lining of the abdomen (belly) and pelvis (this lining is called the peritoneum), the omentum (a layer of connective tissue that drapes the abdominal cavity like an apron), and organs in the pelvis and belly. It can cause a build-up of fluid and swelling in the abdomen. It can also spread to the outer lining of the lungs and cause fluid to build up there. As it becomes more advanced, it may spread to the lung and liver, or, rarely, to the brain or skin.


Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer mainly stays in the abdomen (belly). It tends to grow into nearby tissues and may spread to the liver or other nearby organs. It can also spread to the lungs.


Prostate Cancer

Advanced prostate cancer most often goes to the bones. Much less often, it will spread to other organs, including the lungs and liver.


Renal Cell Carcinoma

Renal cell cancer, or kidney cancer, can grow where it started and invade nearby tissues. It can grow from the kidney into the large vein that drains the blood from the kidney (the renal vein). From there it can grow into a large vein that empties into the heart (the inferior vena cava). It can also grow from the kidney into the adrenal gland, which sits on top of the kidney. When it spreads, the lungs and bones are the most common sites, and occasionally the liver.






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