Liver cancer happens when normal cells in the liver change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. The large size of the liver and the amount of blood that flows through the organ makes it a prime target for tumor cells. Since all the blood in the body must pass through it, the liver is unusually accessible to cancer cells traveling in the bloodstream. This means that liver cancer is one of the most common metastatic (spreading) cancers. If you have concerns, you can trust us for education, early detection and screening, what to expect and next steps after a diagnosis.
When you’re diagnosed, every day counts. If you are diagnosed with liver cancer, we’ll help you review and understand your options so you can quickly move to treatment.
Liver cancer does not usually cause any symptoms of its own. You might have a lump or mild pain in the upper belly, or feel full early on when you try to eat.
You may have symptoms that are caused by the liver disease you had before your cancer diagnosis. Those symptoms can get worse or come back because of the cancer. They include swelling of the belly or legs and the skin or white part of the eyes turning yellow (called jaundice).
In order to confirm a cancer diagnosis, your doctor may do one or more tests such as:
- Blood – A blood test can be used to see if your liver is functioning correctly.
- Imaging – This test will be used to look at your abdominal region to determine if your liver has any abnormal growths.
- Liver biopsy – A liver biopsy is a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed for examination under a microscope to look for signs of damage or disease. It is used to diagnose many liver conditions.
Innovative techniques and technologies offered
We target liver tumors with some of the most advanced treatments and technology available. In the hands of our experts, tools such as these can lead to optimal results and improved survival rates. Throughout our system, our advanced offerings include:
- da Vinci® robot – A robotic surgical system designed to facilitate complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach. This system enables surgeons to make smaller, more precise movements with tiny instruments inside your body, which can help you heal more quickly.
- TrueBeam™– A medical device that delivers a radiation beam to target cancer while exposing healthy cells to minimal radiation. No incisions are made; the noninvasive device rotates around the patient, delivering the radiation dose from different angles.
You will need to call your local hospital to learn which of these options are available in your area.
No two patients are alike. So our team of specialists creates personalized treatment plans for every person we see. You’ll benefit from the combined expertise of specialists in radiology, surgery, pathology, pharmacology, oncology and therapists in fields like physical therapy and psychology.
Your recommended treatment will be based on best practices that have worked for other patients, specific aspects of your cancer/tumor, the results of all your tests, the stage of your cancer and your personal preferences.
Liver cancer is typically treated through a combined approach that may include radiation therapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Surgery is commonly done to remove the tumor.
Surgery is the most common treatment option for thyroid cancer. The goal of surgery is to take out the cancer as well as a slight edge of healthy tissue around the tumor. In some cases, all or part of the thyroid gland may be removed in other cases only one side of the thyroid, where the tumor is located, is removed. In order to ensure that all cancer has been removed, surgery may also be used to take out lymph nodes in the neck and chest that haven’t gotten better with other treatments.
If your entire thyroid gland is removed, you will take thyroid hormone replacement pills daily for the rest of your life.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. Your doctor may use internal or external radiation, or both, to treat your cancer. This treatment can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery, kill cancer cells that remain in the area after surgery, target tumors that can’t be removed with surgery, or treat cancer if you cannot have surgery.
Chemotherapy and targeted therapy
Chemotherapy uses powerful medicines, either given through a vein or taken as pills, to kill cancer cells all through the body. Chemo is given in rounds, followed by a break; treatment can last for months. Chemo may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or to kill any cancer cells that remain after local treatments. It may also treat tumors that have grown in other places in the body. Cancers that have spread are usually treated with chemotherapy.
Tumor ablation treatment destroys a tumor without surgically removing it from the body. This is often the medical recommendation when you’re too sick to have surgery. Ablation techniques include heating the tumor with radio waves (known as RFA), freezing the tumor (known as cryoablation), or killing the tumor by blocking certain blood vessels and cutting off the blood supply that feeds the kidney.
You should always talk to your doctor about your specific treatment plan and what you can expect.
Your care team
Our cancer care teams know that great care is the result of seamless communication between you, your family and your existing healthcare providers. When you have this kind of collaboration, you can expect a more efficient, effective and tailored approach to meeting your individual needs.
Life beyond cancer
With earlier detection, more patients are surviving cancer than ever before. Our survivorship program gives you access to specialists who partner with you for your post-treatment. This program focuses on nutritional goals, healthy living and emotional well-being. We’ll also help you set up regular medical checkups with your primary doctor to prevent, detect and manage any complications related to your cancer or cancer treatment. Because you may be at higher risk for second cancers, regular follow up tests including exams, blood tests, and imaging tests are essential to your long-term health.