Liver Cancer Treatment
Liver cancer begins in the cells of your liver. And if you have been diagnosed with liver cancer, you probably have many questions about the treatments available to you.
Making Liver Cancer Treatment Decisions
You don’t have to make a quick decision about treatment because it is important to give yourself time to understand your options. It is also important you ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
If you want a second opinion, and more time to make a decision, ask your doctor for help on where to start. Getting a second opinion will give you more information and allow you to think further about what treatments might help you best.
Liver Cancer Treatment Considerations
Your doctor will likely develop a treatment plan based on certain factors, including:
- How much of your liver has been affected by the cancer
- Whether the cancer is spreading
- Your preferences
- Your overall health
- Any possibility of damage to the healthy parts of your liver
Your doctor will then discuss your treatment options, the benefit of each treatment, and any side effects or potential complications.
How Is Liver Cancer Treated?
The main treatments for liver cancer are:
- Surgery and liver transplant
- Biological therapy
- Radiation Therapy
- Localized treatments, such as radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation
Surgery and Liver Transplant
If the cancer is isolated to the liver, surgery is the best treatment option for you. Liver cancer surgery can remove up to 80 percent of your affected liver. Your doctor is more likely to recommend surgery if you do not have cirrhosis.
Liver cirrhosis is a serious condition where normal tissue is replaced by scar tissue. The main causes of cirrhosis are excessive alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (fat in the liver).
Liver transplant surgery involves removing your diseased liver and replacing it with part of a liver from a healthy donor. For some people, a liver transplant is the only option to treat liver cancer.
Biological therapies change the way cells work and help the body control growth of advanced liver cancer or cancer that has spread to other body parts.
A commonly used biological therapy drug, sorafenib, blocks signals that promote cancer cell growth. Available in pill form, it may also help relieve some of the symptoms of liver cancer, including pain.
Sorafenib can cause some harsh side effects, including diarrhea, soreness in the hands and feet, skin changes, fatigue, hair loss, and increased blood pressure. Your doctor can prescribe a medication to control some of the side effects.
Another targeted drug therapy is regorafenib, which works to block proteins that promote cancer growth. This drug is considered when sorafenib is unsuccessful. It is available is pill form.
Much like sorafenib, side effects are harsh and sometimes severe. Less common serious side effects include liver damage, bleeding, blood flow problems, and holes in the stomach and intestines.