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What are the Treatments for Liver Cancer?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Liver cancer is a very common type of malignancy that can cause life-threatening complications if it is not detected and treated in its early stages. There are several different approaches to liver cancer treatment, and doctors can determine the best course of action based on the size and number of tumors, the patient's overall health, and the likelihood that cancer has already started to spread to other parts of the body. Surgery is the most effective form of treatment when possible, but certain circumstances require other attempts, such as heat ablation, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Most surgeons prefer to excise tumors when they are relatively small and will leave enough healthy liver tissue for recovery. Advancements in surgical technology allow professionals to perform minimally-invasive procedures such as laparoscopy. During the operation, the surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen and inserts a fiber optic camera, forceps, scalpels, and other instruments. The camera is used to guide the tools and ensure the surgeon is able to cut away the entire cancerous mass. When all tumors are discovered and excised, the chances for full recovery are high.

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Numerous small tumors can make surgical excision impossible. Instead, an oncologist can try ablation, embolization, or radiation treatment to rid the body of liver cancer. Ablation is usually performed by inserting several metal needles into the center of tumors and heating them with electricity. The heat damages the linings of cancer cells and causes them to die. Embolization involves preventing blood flow to cancerous cells by plugging blood vessels with metal wires or a gel solution. Finally, radiation therapy entails subjecting tumors to high-intensity beams of ionized radiation in hopes of shrinking and killing them.

Chemotherapy can be considered as a liver cancer treatment if other methods fail to remove all cancerous cells or if tumors begin to grow elsewhere in the body. A doctor may choose a conventional version of chemo that involves regular doses of oral or intravenous medication over a three- to six- month period. A relatively new procedure called hepatic artery infusion can be used to inject chemo drugs directly into the main artery of the liver, ensuring that they reach tumors quickly while minimizing damage to healthy cells in the body.

Liver cancer can be difficult to manage if surgery is not a good option, and it often progresses despite other aggressive treatment efforts. A team of doctors can consider liver transplantation if it is likely that a patient will not survive very long otherwise. New therapies and variations on existing techniques are constantly being developed, and doctors can explain each type of procedure in detail to help their patients make the best possible treatment choices.

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