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 may include one of two liver cancer treatments:

  • Liver resection removes the part of the liver that contains cancer. Many considerations go into determining if resection is appropriate. This evaluation may require a liver surgeon.
  • This type of liver transplant  replaces the diseased liver with a healthy one. This may be appropriate if the cancer is only in the liver, and the right donor is found. A liver transplant surgeon is part of the organ transplant department at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

Chemotherapy  uses drugs given by mouth or injection to kill cancer cells.

  • Chemotherapy may treat cancer that has spread to the liver from other parts of the body (liver metastases).
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  • Chemotherapy may shrink large tumors before surgery for primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). This can help ensure a successful surgery.

Chemoembolization combines chemotherapy with another treatment to slow the growth of liver cancer tumors.

Chemoembolization begins when chemotherapy medicine is sent through the liver's blood vessels. Another material then is put into the liver's blood vessels to cut off the blood supply to the liver and starve the tumor or blood.

Percutaneous ethanol injection destroys cancer cells by putting alcohol directly into the liver tumor. This liver cancer treatment is also called PEI, alcohol ablation or ethanol ablation.

  • A small needle goes through the skin and into the tumor.
  • The alcohol is then injected into the tumor.

This may be done once or twice a week to reduce liver cancer tumors.

Radiation therapy uses high powered x-rays or radioactive seeds to damage liver cancer cells.

Liver cancer treatments that involve radiation therapy include:

  • Selective internal radiation therapy pinpoints cancer cells without damaging healthy liver tissue.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-surgical treatment that is rarely used for liver cancer. It uses computer imaging to locate a liver tumor and see it in three dimensions. Specially adapted equipment then sends a single, concentrated dose of radiation.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses heat to destroy cancer cells. This is effective in treating many small liver tumors (less than 3 centimeters wide).

Dealing with cancer treatment side effects

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

Reviewed By: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, medical director, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 08/26/2009
Last Reviewed: 08/26/2009

Cancer rehabilitation

Whether you are a cancer survivor or are undergoing cancer treatment, you may face symptoms that interfere with daily life. Our cancer rehabilitation team can help. Call 612-863-8947.


Cancer research

Participating in a clinical trial may help you take a more active role in your health care. You may also gain access to new drugs, treatments and disease management practices.