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Cancer care: Liver cancer

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Liver cancer treatments

Your treatment plan

Our patients work with their care team to identify the liver cancer treatments best for them. Their treatment plan considers the liver tumor's location and size, if the cancer has spread, and the patient's general health.

Liver cancer treatments

These options may be a part of your liver cancer treatment plan.

Surgery
Chemotherapy
Chemoembolization
Percutaneous ethanol injection
Radiation therapy
Radiofrequency ablation

Dealing with cancer treatment side effects

Cancer treatment can cause many side effects. Here's how to deal with some common side effects.


Source: Virginia Piper Cancer Institute; American Society of Clinical Oncology; American Cancer Society; National Cancer Institute
Reviewed by: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 08/26/2009
Last Reviewed: 08/26/2009

Selective internal radiation therapy

One of the latest liver cancer treatments

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) uses tiny glass beads (microspheres) to send a radioactive element (yttrium-90) through the bloodstream into liver tumors.

Since the radiation goes directly into the tumor, it is more effective in killing cancer cells and saving normal liver function than standard radiation treatments.

What happens during SIRT?
Is this liver cancer treatment right for me?

Source: Virginia Piper Cancer Institute; SIRTEX
Reviewed by: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 01/23/2006
Last Reviewed: 08/26/2009

Liver cancer stages

When diagnosed with liver cancer, you will be told what stage the cancer is at. Liver cancer stages outline how "bad" or "advanced" your disease is. This can help you and your care team evaluate what liver cancer treatments may help.

Stages

Treatment classifications

Stage I is when there is only one tumor. Liver cancer has not spread to other areas of the body.

The tumor usually can be removed completely by surgery. This is called localized resectable cancer.

Stage II is when one liver tumor has spread to nearby blood vessels. It can also be when there are many tumors that all are less than 5 centimeters wide.

Some stage II liver tumors may be removed fully by surgery if you do not also have cirrhosis.

Stage IIIA is when there are many liver tumors with at least one being larger than 5 centimeters wide. It can also be when one tumor has gone into major blood vessels near the liver.

In most cases, not all of the liver tumors can be removed by surgery. This is called localized unresectable cancer.

Stage IIIB is when there are more than one liver tumors of any size. The cancer either has spread to nearby organs (but not the gallbladder); or entered the lining that covers the liver.

Since surgery often cannot entirely remove the liver tumors, this is called localized unresectable cancer.

Stage IIIC is when liver cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, regardless of the number or size of tumors.

In most cases, surgery will be effective for stage IIIC liver cancer. This is called advanced cancer.

Stage IV is metastatic, the most advanced stage of liver cancer. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as bones, blood vessels, the lungs and lymph nodes.

Surgery often is not an effective treatment for advanced liver cancer.

Liver cancer prognosis: What are the chances of surviving liver cancer?
What does 'five-year relative survival rate' mean?

Source: American Cancer Society, How is liver cancer staged?; National Cancer Institute, Stages of adult primary liver cancer; Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database
Reviewed by: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 08/26/2009
Last Reviewed: 08/26/2009