After you have been diagnosed with liver cancer, several variables play a role in choosing the best treatment option. You and your doctor will discuss how much of your liver is affected and if the cancer has already spread to other areas of the body. Your overall health and medical preferences will also be a factor when picking a regime. The following are ten treatments for liver cancer.

Hepatectomy Surgery

Surgery can be performed to remove the cancerous tumor and some healthy tissue that surrounds the area. The success rate of hepatectomy surgery is very high, especially for patients who have a tumor in the early stages. If the growth is smaller than five centimeters, the operation proves to be beneficial because the cancerous portion of the liver is removed. In order to be a good candidate for this operation, the rest of your liver must be healthy, as it will take on the entire function of the organ after removal of the cancerous portion. In some cases, surgery may not be an option. Liver cancer that has spread to other organs requires further treatment. Your surgical oncologist will discuss different surgery options based on your health status and preferences.

Close up of hand getting surgical tools


Liver Transplantation

The terms of a liver transplant are very strict and specific. The cancerous tumors must be contained within the liver and adhere to a particular number and size. Furthermore, a suitable donor is required, but the number of organs available are extremely limited, which decreases the chances of this option. After the surgery, the patient needs to be monitored carefully to ensure the body does not reject the transplantation. The operation itself is very successful, but waiting for a donor can pose the biggest threat to the patient.

Doctor holding a model of human liver Shidlovski / Getty Images


Thermal Ablation

Depending on the stage of liver cancer, heat may be used to destroy cancer cells. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and microwave therapy are viable liver cancer treatment options. Although it can be done surgically, thermal ablation can also be administered through laparoscopy or directly through the skin. A patient must be sedated with medication before the application. The concept of using lasers is often discussed when the liver cancer is unresectable, meaning that it cannot be surgically excised. If you were diagnosed with liver cancer, talk to your doctor and team of oncologists about your treatment plan immediately.



Percutaneous Ethanol Injection

Percutaneous ethanol is an alcohol that is injected into the cancerous tumor directly and sufficiently destroys the liver cancer. The procedure is fairly straightforward with minor side effects including a fever and mild pain after the surgery. Some risks are involved, for example if the alcohol fuses from the liver, it can cause severe pain. This procedure is ideal for tumors smaller than three centimeters in size, but your oncologist may recommend thermal ablation depending on your individual situation as percutaneous ethanol injection is becoming less common.



Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

Using high-energy x-rays to kill cancer is known as radiation therapy. SBRT targets the tumor as it is exposed to high doses of radiation. Unfortunately, healthy tissues can also be destroyed in the process. Side effects can include skin irritation, fatigue, and nausea as well as damage the lungs and stomach, but this can potentially be prevented. It is critical to consult with your radiation oncologist about the benefits and risks of radiation therapy for liver cancer. The treatment works best if the growth is five centimeters or smaller, but may be considered in other cases, too.




Another form of radiation therapy for liver cancer is called radioembolization utilizes radioactive beads. The radiation oncologist will surgically place them into the artery with the purpose of supplying the cancerous tumor with blood. However, the beads become trapped in the tumor’s small blood vessels and transmit radiation to the cancerous growth directly. The process is similar to the equally conventional chemoembolization treatment discussed below.




Embolization is a procedure that blocks the blood flow to the cancerous tumor. Rather than using radiation, chemoembolization is so named because it uses the application of chemotherapy. A catheter injects the particles into the vessels that lead to the cancerous tumor. Initially, the growth starves from the lack of blood supply and can no longer grow. Then the chemotherapy efficiently destroys it. Although patients may experience fever, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, it is used with high liver cancer palliation. This treatment is also available for patients who are waiting for a donor.




Liver cancer patients are often prescribed medication as treatment called chemotherapy. The drugs are either injected into a vein or the hepatic artery feeding the liver. However, they may also be taken by mouth in certain scenarios. The goal is to block the flow of blood through the artery to allow the chemotherapy to destroy the tumor. Chemotherapy poses significant side effects, but this depends on the patient’s dosage and individual response to the drugs. Common risks include hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, fatigue, bruising easily, swelling in the legs, diarrhea, and mouth sores. However, the adverse symptoms are usually temporary.



Targeted Therapy

The doctor may request blood work, imaging scans, and other tests to determine the genetic cause of liver cancer growth. This type of treatment targets particular genes or proteins that contribute to cancer survival while preventing damage to healthy tissues. Sorafenib is a targeted therapy taken as an oral pill. It is prescribed for patients with advanced liver disease and can prolong life for several months. The side effects include rash, fatigue, high blood pressure, loss of appetite, and sores. However, it depends on the metastasized cancer and overall health of your liver.

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Immunotherapy refers to the immune system and the idea of using your body’s natural defenses to fight off the disease. Also known as biologic therapy, the patient’s body must be improved or restored using laboratory materials. This is currently only available as a clinical trial and is not a standard treatment option. However, liver cancer patients may partake in clinical trials before, during, or after treatment. Scientists and doctors both research new approaches to curing cancer through safe clinical trials. If you wish to undergo innovative medications or operations that are not familiar with the average patient, you have the option to do so. Sometimes treating advanced diseases offers limited treatment options; you can take advantage of the ongoing research of clinical trials to manage your symptoms and cure the illness



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