The treatment of liver cancer is dependent on the stage, age, overall physical health and presence of other co morbid conditions.
The aim of any anti cancer treatment is to completely get rid of the cancer. When that goal is not possible, the aim is then to prevent the tumor from growing or spreading.
In many cases of liver cancer, palliative treatment is sometimes the best treatment. The majority of palliative care treatments are designed to relieve symptoms of liver cancer and improve the quality of life.
Surgery is the ideal treatment for individuals with localized and resectable cancer. Individual who undergo liver resection surgery must also be physically fit and have normal liver function. The liver cancer must be completely resected because recurrence will occur if even a tiny piece of cancer is left behind.
Alcohol injections are sometimes undertaken to kill liver cancer cells. The alcohol may be injected through the skin into the liver or may be done at the time of surgery. Most people require a series of alcohol injections. The alcohol kills the liver cells and decreases the symptoms. Occasionally the alcohol does leak into the abdomen and induces pain.
Radiofrequency ablation involves passing an electric current to destroy the cancer cells. The procedure is done by passing several electrical wires through the skin and heating the cancer cells. This type of treatment is an option for individual with multiple liver masses.
Chemoembolization involves the introduction of anti-cancer drugs directly into the blood vessel, which supplies the liver cancer. This type of therapy is directed at the cancer and is associated with fewer side effects than many other treatments.
Cryoablation uses extreme cold to kill cancer cells. The cryoprobe is placed on the cancer and the device is turned on. This technique is effective at killing cancer cells, but is associated with a number of health complications.
Radiation therapy is often used to shrink large tumors. It is frequently used to treat large unresectable liver cancers.
Systemic chemotherapy is not very effective at treating liver cancer and is only used in rare circumstances.
Liver transplant is an option for people with localized cancer or bile duct cancers. Liver cancer can recur after transplantation and thus all candidates have to be selected well.
Sorafenib is targeted therapy for individuals who have inoperable liver cancer. A few studies have shown that such agents can prevent expansion of liver cancer. However, more studies are needed to determine the full benefit of targeted therapy.
The treatment of liver cancer is quite complex and involves a team of doctors who specialize in cancer, radiation therapy, oncology and surgery. Currently there are several clinical trials underway looking at targeted therapy. Some of these trials can be viewed at the WebPages of the National Cancer Institute.