Living With Liver Cancer
A liver cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Its important to connect with people in your life who can help you deal with stress, anxiety, or other feelings. This might include family members and friends.
You may want to speak with a counselor who can help you work through your emotions or consider joining a cancer support group. Sharing your experiences with others who can relate to what youre going through can help you feel more connected.
Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. You can also find information about support groups on the
Help Getting Through Cancer Treatment
People with cancer need support and information, no matter what stage of illness they may be in. Knowing all of your options and finding the resources you need will help you make informed decisions about your care.
Whether you are thinking about treatment, getting treatment, or not being treated at all, you can still get supportive care to help with pain or other symptoms. Communicating with your cancer care team is important so you understand your diagnosis, what treatment is recommended, and ways to maintain or improve your quality of life.
Different types of programs and support services may be helpful, and can be an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services including rides to treatment, lodging, and more to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.
Side Effects Of Liver Cancer Chemotherapy
While chemotherapy drugs attack the rapidly dividing cancer cells, they also tend to affect other, healthy cells in the body that also divide quickly, such as those in the lining of the intestines and mouth, bone marrow and hair follicles. When these cells are affected by chemotherapy medication, side effects may occur. The side effects a patient experiences will depend on the type and dose of their chemotherapy, though common side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
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Secondary Liver Cancer Treatments
When cancer spreads to the liver from another part of the body, the disease is considered liver metastasis, or secondary liver cancer. Along with the brain, bones and lungs, the liver is one of the most common locations in the body for cancer to spread. Liver metastases are more common than primary liver cancer. Common cancers that often spread to the liver include those of the breast, colon, rectum, lung, skin and kidney.
Treatment for secondary liver cancer depends on many factors, including:
- The overall health of the patient
- The number, size and locations of the secondary tumors
- The extent of damage to the liver
- Cancer treatments already received
- Where the cancer originated
Liver metastases are not considered liver cancer. Instead, the disease named for the location of the primary tumor. For instance, breast cancer that spreads to the liver is considered breast cancer, not liver cancer.
Treatment options for secondary liver cancer include:
Treatment for liver metastases, in some cases, may be considered palliative, used to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Signs And Symptoms Of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer often doesnt cause any symptoms in the early stages, but they may appear as the cancer grows or spreads. There are several possible symptoms:
- weakness and tiredness
- pain in the abdomen, or in the right shoulder
- appetite loss and feeling sick
- unexplained weight loss
- yellowing of the skin and eyes
- dark urine and pale bowel motions
Not everyone with these symptoms has liver cancer. If you have any of these symptoms or are worried, always see your doctor.
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What About Other Treatments I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things. You may want to know more about them.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
Choice Of Staging System
There is no consensus as to which staging system is the best, and studies comparing different staging systems have shown variable prognostic values of these systems in various patient populations . Because there is great heterogeneity in geographic variations of treatment approaches and severity of underlying liver functions, it is clear that no universal staging system will accurately accommodate all patient and tumor variables. It is likely that a certain scoring system would be optimal for a certain patient population. For example, pathologic staging systems such as the AJCC TNM staging system may be superior to clinical systems in prognosis classification for patients with surgical resection, whereas clinical systems, such as BCLC and CLIP systems, may have more prognostic value for patients with advanced HCC and cirrhosis who are not candidates for surgery . Further studies are needed to improve the current staging systems and to provide sufficient flexibility for clinical application of these systems across a broader range of patient populations. For convenience, this chapter uses the BCLC system to discuss treatment for liver cancer in the present context.
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Get The Hepatitis B Vaccine
Theres a vaccine for hepatitis B that is recommended for all eligible children. Adults who are at high risk for infection should also be vaccinated.
This includes people who use illegal drugs like heroin, crack cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine.
The vaccination is usually given in a series of three injections over a period of 6 months.
Liver Cancer Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are a critical testing ground for determining the safety and effectiveness of new treatments and drugs for cancer and many other diseases. As part of our commitment to providing innovative treatments, our doctors may recommend that you enroll in carefully selected clinical trials for liver cancer to offer you access to treatment options that may otherwise be unavailable to you.
Patients who meet specific criteria may be considered for a clinical trial on an individual basis and may qualify at any stage of disease or treatment. Ask your doctor whether a liver cancer clinical trial is a good option for you. as well as about the risks and various requirements involved.
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Side Effects Of Treatment For Liver Cancer
All cancer treatments can have side effects. Your treatment team will discuss these with you before you start treatment. Talk to your doctor or nurse about any side effects you are experiencing.
Some side effects can be upsetting and difficult, but there is help if you need it. Call or email to speak with a caring cancer nurse for support.
Treatments For Liver Cancer And Their Prognosis
Is liver cancer curable? In most cases, it’s not. Because liver cancer is usually not caught in an early stage and is usually a result of metastasis from another location in the body, the rate of cure for this type of cancer is low. And treatments for liver cancer at different stages vary:
1. For Potentially Resectable Cancer
This category applies to a very small number of liver cancer patients. These patients have early-stage tumors that were caught and are eligible for surgery . The size of the tumor is a key to the success of this treatment. Patients with large tumors or tumors that have impacted nearby blood vessels are not good candidates as these tend to recur or affect other areas of the body even after surgery.
2. For Potentially Transplantable Cancer
Liver cancer patients with early-stage tumors that have an otherwise unhealthy liver may be eligible for liver transplant. The success rate, when a liver can be found and a transplant completed, is high. However, the wait for a viable liver is long and other treatments, such as ablation or embolization, must be tried in the meantime.
3. For Unresectable Liver Cancers
These treatments can help alleviate symptoms to improve quality of life and perhaps extend your life for a certain period.
4. For Advanced Liver Cancers
5. For Recurrent Liver Cancer
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Prognosis And Survival Rates For Liver Cancer
When someone is diagnosed with liver cancer, their doctor will give them a prognosis. A prognosis is the doctors opinion of how likely it is that the cancer will spread, and the chances of getting better. A prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the persons age and general health.
If you have liver cancer, your doctor will talk to you about your individual situation when working out your prognosis. Every persons experience is different and there is support available to you.
Treatment Of Liver Cancer By Stage
Although the AJCC staging system is often used to describe the spread of a liver cancer, doctors use a more practical system to determine treatment options. Liver cancers are often categorized as:
- Potentially resectable or transplantable cancer
- Unresectable cancer that has not spread
- Advanced cancer
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Causes Of Liver Cancer
The exact cause of liver cancer is unknown, but many cases are linked to a problem with the liver called cirrhosis. This is where the tissue of the liver has become scarred and cannot perform many of its usual functions.
Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably, producing a lump of tissue known as a tumour.
In cases of liver cancer, it is uncertain why and how the cells of the liver are affected, but it appears that cirrhosis can increase a person’s chances of developing the condition.
However, most cases of cirrhosis do not lead to liver cancer, and people without cirrhosis can also develop liver cancer.
How Serious Is My Cancer
If you have liver cancer, the doctor will want to find out how far it has spread. This is called staging. The stage describes the growth or spread of the cancer through the liver. It also tells if the cancer has spread to other organs of your body that are close by or far away. Your doctor will want to find out the stage of your cancer to help decide what type of treatment is best for you.
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Radiation Therapy For Liver Cancer
Radiation therapy uses rays of energy, similar to X-rays, to destroy cancer cells. To treat liver cancer, radiation may be delivered in one of two ways.
- External radiation: This type of therapy targets radiation at the cancer, using a machine outside of the body.
- Radioembolization: This involves small radioactive beads injected near the tumor that emit radiation and destroy nearby cancer cells or block tumor growth.
Radiation may be used to treat liver cancer if:
- The cancer cannot be treated with surgery, ablation or embolization.
- Ablation or embolization treatments were previously used without success.
- The cancer has spread to the brain, bones or other areas of the body.
- You need to relieve painful symptoms.
- You have tumor thrombus that is blocking the portal vein .
In the same way it damages cancer cells, radiation therapy may also harm healthy cells, leading to side effects. Most side effects typically subside after treatment concludes, but some may persist. Some of the common short-term side effects of radiation therapy for liver cancer include:
- Skin changes or irritation where radiation is delivered
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
How Does The Doctor Know I Have Liver Cancer
Liver cancer often doesnt cause signs and symptoms until it has grown very large or spread.
Some symptoms of liver cancer are unplanned weight loss, dont feel like eating, feeling full after a small meal, belly pain and swelling, and itchy, yellow skin. The doctor will ask you questions about your health and do a physical exam.
What Are The Treatments For Liver Cancer
Any liver cancer is difficult to cure. Primary liver cancer is rarely detectable early, when it is most treatable. Secondary or metastatic liver cancer is hard to treat because it has already spread. The liver’s complex network of blood vessels and bile ducts makes surgery difficult. Most treatment concentrates on making patients feel better and perhaps live longer.
Patients with early-stage tumors that can be removed surgically have the best chance of long-term survival. Unfortunately, most liver cancers are inoperable at the time it’s diagnosed, either because the cancer is too advanced or the liver is too diseased to permit surgery. In some patients, chemotherapy is given directly into the liver to reduce tumors to a size that may make surgery possible. This may also be done without chemotherapy in some cases, using ethanol instead. Patients in remission must be monitored closely for potential recurrence.
Cryotherapy, or freezing the tumor, and radiofrequency ablation , using radio waves to destroy the tumor, may be used to treat some cases of liver cancer. Radiation therapy can be given in various ways, but has its limitations due to the liver’s low tolerance to radiation. When used, the role of radiation is to alleviate symptoms outside of the liver or to relieve pain within the liver by shrinking the tumor. Radioembolization therapy uses substances to cut off the blood supply to the tumor.
Treatment For Early Liver Cancer
For patients with early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma, a partial hepatectomy may be curative however, a patients overall liver function, tumor assessment, and liver anatomy must be taken into consideration. Resection is recommended in patients who have preserved liver function, generally ChildPugh class A without portal hypertension. Liver transplantation also offers patients a potential curative treatment option in early hepatocellular carcinoma.
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Chinese Medicine As The Source Of Discovering New Treatment For Liver Cancer
As mentioned above, currently there are various therapies for liver neoplasm. However, the overall survival rate of patients still remains unsatisfactory on account of high invasiveness and metastasis, chemotherapeutic resistance, and so on. Chinese medicine, in various forms including composite formulae, extracted fractions, monomers, and their derivatives, has been pursued as ideal and novel sources for therapeutic agent development for cancer.
I Have Liver Cancer How Do I Take Care Of Myself
Liver cancer and liver cancer treatments take a toll on your body. Some people have liver transplants or surgery to remove part of their liver. Other people may need treatment for as long as they live. Either way, you should plan on regular appointments with your healthcare provider so they can monitor your progress and watch for signs of recurring liver cancer . For example, people who dont have signs of liver cancer after treatment should plan on follow-up imaging and blood tests every three to six months for the first two years after treatment.
If youve been treated for liver cancer, here are some steps you can take that may reduce your risk for recurrent liver cancer:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Primary liver cancer is a life-threatening illness. Often, people dont know they have liver cancer until the cancer is in an advanced stage, which limits treatment options. When that happens, healthcare providers focus on treatments to relieve symptoms and slow cancer growth while helping you maintain a quality of life. If you have an advanced form of liver cancer, talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment options, including benefits and side effects so you can feel confident about your choices going forward.
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Liver Cancer Treatment: Surgical Resection
For noncirrhotic patients with liver cancer, surgery is the treatment of choice. Surgical resection, in which your surgeon removes the cancerous part of the liver, offers the best possibility for a positive outcome.
This option works best when the cancer is detected early and has not spread, either within the liver or to other organs. Once the cancer is removed, a healthy liver can regenerate, returning to normal size within six months. However, if the liver is cirrhotic, its ability to regenerate is limited.
Not all patients are candidates for resection. Resection is not recommended if:
- The tumor has spread to other parts of the liver or the body
- The size of the tumor or its location near major blood vessels means it is dangerous to remove
- Cirrhosis or other disease limits the ability to operate or remove part of the liver
- Other medical conditions make surgery unsafe
There are a number of different surgical options for liver resection:
- Resecting the entire lobe
- Resecting more than one lobe
- Removing part of a lobe
A liver is divided into eight sections, and the resection is based on those sections.
What to expect from a liver resection:
- You will be placed under general anesthesia.
- Your surgeon will make an incision on the right side of your body below your rib cage, and then remove the cancerous portion of the liver.
- The surgery will take anywhere from two to five hours.
- You will be hospitalized for four to six days.
Liver Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment At Our Ctca Gi Cancer Centers
At CTCA, we understand that liver cancer and other malignancies of the gastrointestinal tract create unique challenges for patients, and that treatment options are very specific to each disease. Thats why each CTCA hospital has a GI Cancer Center dedicated to diagnosing, treating and supporting the quality of life of patients with liver and other GI cancers. Committed to offering state-of-the-art treatments for patients with liver cancer, our multidisciplinary team of board-certified medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists and supportive care clinicians work with our patients to deliver quality clinical care with a patient-centered approach. After your diagnosis, your GI Cancer Center care team will discuss your options with you and help you develop a personalized care plan tailored to your individual needs.
Because of the digestive tracts role in processing food and waste, many patients with gastrointestinal disease have difficulty with digestive function. Thats why nutrition therapy is a key component of our GI Cancer Centers approach. Each center is staffed by oncology-trained dietitians who work with patients in developing a healthy, balanced and appetizing nutrition plan. If patients become malnourished, the dietitian is available to help them establish healthy lifestyle and eating habits to help improve their condition.
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