Metastatic cancer to the liver refers to cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to the liver from another part of the body. 


The liver is a common site for metastases because of its rich blood supply and filtration of blood from the digestive tract. 


Various types of cancer can spread to the liver, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and others. 


Metastatic cancer to the liver is often more common than primary liver cancer.


The spread of cancer to the liver usually occurs through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. Cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic vessels to form new tumors in the liver.



Symptoms of metastatic cancer to the liver may include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Enlarged liver



The diagnosis of metastatic cancer to the liver involves a combination of imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans, as well as blood tests to assess liver function and identify any tumor markers. 


Patients who have had other cancers in the past (e.g. bowel cancer) usually undergo regular surveillance imaging to detect any abnormalities in the liver, which may be another way secondary cancers in the liver are diagnosed. A biopsy may also be performed to confirm the presence of cancer cells in the liver.



Treatment options for metastatic cancer to the liver depend on various factors, including the type of primary cancer, the extent of liver involvement, and the overall health of the patient. Such decisions are usually made in a multi-disciplinary setting. 


Treatment modalities can be used in combination and may include:

  • Surgical resection of the liver metastases
  • Ablation therapy, such as radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation, to destroy the tumors- this can provide equivalent results to resection for small tumours
  • Systemic chemotherapy or targeted therapy to shrink the tumors and slow their progression-this can sometimes facilitate surgery
  • Radiation therapy to target and destroy cancer cells in the liver


Regular follow-up visits with a healthcare provider are essential for individuals with metastatic cancer to the liver to monitor the response to treatment, manage any side effects, and address any potential complications.


A comprehensive treatment plan is crucial in managing metastatic cancer to the liver and improving the quality of life for the affected individuals.

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