Liver cancer can be cured only when found in an early stage and before the disease has spread. Treatment procedures may vary depending on the size of the tumor, and whether or not the patient also has cirrhosis of the liver. If cirrhosis is not a factor, the tumor may be surgically removed or destroyed using non-surgical techniques.
Treatment options for liver cancer may include:
Currently, the best chance for potentially curing liver cancer is through surgery. Surgery can be done in attempt to remove the tumor or to do a liver transplant. If the surgeon is able to remove most of the tumor, this betters the chance of a positive outlook for survival. Transplantation involves the removal of the diseased liver, which is then replaced with a healthy organ from a donor. If the patient suffers from cirrhosis or it the tumor is very large, liver transplantation will likely be recommended as the primary treatment option. Transplantation may also be an option for small liver tumors, although not done very often. Transplantation may also carry an added risk for serious infection and other health issues in some liver cancer patients.
Tumor Ablation is a local treatment. Heat (radiofrequency ablation) or extreme cold (cryosurgery) is used to freeze or burn the tumor in place. Ablation may be used when surgical removal of the tumor is not possible. Ablation may help prolong survival for some liver cancer patients.
Embolization involves the injection of tiny plastic pellets or another material into the arteries that carry blood to the tumor. The pellets block blood flow, which makes it harder for the tumor to grow.
High-energy rays are used to shrink or kill liver cancer cells. Radiation can only be used in low doses, as normal liver tissue will be destroyed along with cancer cells. Radiation therapy cannot cure liver cancer, and is typically used to shrink the tumor or relieve pain.
Chemotherapy uses one drug or a combination of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is not generally used to treat liver cancer because of a low response rate, but research is looking into novel ways to administer chemotherapy.
New treatments are always being tested in clinical trials and some patients with cancer may want to consider participating in one of these research studies. These studies are meant to help improve current cancer treatments or obtain information on new treatments. Talk to your doctor about the clinical trials that may be right for you.