Liver Metastates (Secondary Liver Cancer)

Secondary liver cancer is when a cancer that started somewhere else in the body has spread to the liver.

Where a cancer starts is called the primary cancer. If some cancer cells break away from the primary cancer they can move through the bloodstream or lymphatic system Open a glossary item to another part of the body, where they can form a new tumour. This is called a secondary cancer. Secondary cancers are also called metastases (pronounced met-ass-ta-sees).

The secondary cancer is made of the same type of cells as the primary cancer. If your cancer started in your lung and has spread to your liver, the areas of cancer in the liver are made up of lung cancer cells. This is different from having a cancer that first started in the liver (a primary liver cancer). In that case, the cancer is made up of liver cells that have become cancerous. This is important because the primary cancer tells your doctor which type of treatment you need.


Which cancers spread to the liver?

Any cancer can spread to the liver. The most common cancers to do so are:

  • breast cancer
  • bowel cancer
  • lung cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • neuroendocrine tumour (NET) cancers