Liver Cancer: Classifications

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of liver cancer. HCC can start as a single tumor that takes a long time to spread to other parts of the liver. It can also present as many small cancerous nodules throughout the liver. This type of cancer is found most often in patients with cirrhosis (chronic liver damage).

Intrahepatic bile duct cancer accounts for 10 to 20 percent of all liver cancers. This disease starts in the cells that line the bile ducts. Cholangiocarcinomas are treated differently from HCC, so it is important that they are reviewed by expert pathologists. At Columbia, our primary liver pathologist, Jay Lefkowitch, is widely regarded as one of the best liver pathologists in the country. Extrahepatic biliary cancers and gallbladder cancers are frequently “lumped” with intrahepatic biliary cancers, even though they have different risk factors and genetic makeups.

Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are rare cancers that originate in the cells lining the blood vessels. They grow very quickly and are generally treated like sarcomas.