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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, also called malignant hepatoma) is the most common type of liver cancer. Most cases of HCC are secondary to either a viral hepatitide infection (hepatitis B or C) or cirrhosis (alcoholism being the most common cause of hepatic cirrhosis).
Compared to other cancers, HCC is quite a rare tumor in the United States. In countries where hepatitis is not endemic, most malignant cancers in the liver are not primary HCC but metastasis (spread) of cancer from elsewhere in the body, e.g., the colon. Treatment options of HCC and prognosis are dependent on many factors but especially on tumor size and staging. Tumor grade is also important. High-grade tumors will have a poor prognosis, while low-grade tumors may go unnoticed for many years, as is the case in many other organs, such as the breast, where a ductal carcinoma in situ (or a lobular carcinoma in situ) may be present without any clinical signs and without correlate on routine imaging tests, although in some occasions it may be detected on more specialized imaging studies like MR mammography.
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