Talia Baker, MD, Michael Charlton, MD, and Anjana Pillai, MD
From left to right: Talia Baker, MD, transplant surgeon, and hepatologists Michael Charlton, MD, and Anjana Pillai, MD, of the liver tumor program.

Primary liver cancer (cancer that begins in the liver) typically affects individuals who already have advanced liver disease or cirrhosis, usually as a result of hepatitis B or C, alcoholic liver disease or fatty liver disease. Because patients are battling two competing diseases — advanced liver disease and liver cancer — care and treatment is complex and requires an experienced team.

Liver Tumor Program

The UChicago Medicine Liver Tumor Program brings together specialists from our cancer and digestive disease programs — two programs ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Surgeons, hepatologists, medical and radiation oncologists, transplant specialists, interventional radiologists, pain specialists and others offer personalized care for patients with primary liver cancer as well as bile duct cancer and benign tumors of the liver.

Types of Liver Cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer and is often associated with advanced liver disease or hepatitis B. There is effective surveillance available for HCC and early detection is key in offering a cure.

Fibrolamellar cancer is a rare form of primary liver cancer that is often seen in young people without underlying liver disease.

Bile duct cancer or cholangiocarcinoma is a type of liver cancer that starts in the bile ducts — small tubes that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine.

Angiosarcomas and hemangiosarcomas start in the blood vessels in the liver. These fast-growing liver cancers are usually in an advanced stage when they are diagnosed.

Hepatoblastoma is a rare type of liver cancer most often seen in children. The survival rate is more than 90 percent if the cancer is caught early.

Some tumors in the liver are benign (non-cancerous) but can cause problems if they grow. Benign tumors can usually be removed by surgery.

For metastatic liver cancer — cancer that has spread to the liver from the lungs, breast, colon or other organs — please see the information on our site dedicated to those primary cancers.

Skilled Surgeon Transplants Man's Own Liver Back into His Body During Innovative Cancer Removal Procedure

Richard Vanderslice's primary liver tumor was in a hard-to-reach location near and involving several blood vessels — making tumor removal surgery risky and its success uncertain. UChicago Medicine surgeon John Fung, MD, PhD, took a creative approach to the surgery. Fung proposed a treatment method that involved removing Vanderslice's liver and then cutting out the cancer while the organ is on a table in the operating room. After that, the liver was transplanted back into Vanderslice's body. "Within five minutes of meeting him and talking with him [Dr. Fung], I knew he was my surgeon. I could put my complete and utter trust and faith in him," Vanderslice said.

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