How is Liver Cancer Treated?
After a person is diagnosed with liver cancer, their cancer care team discuss with them the therapy options that are available for them. The available therapy options depend on many factors including the class of cancer that one is suffering from. Liver cancer is usually classified into primary (cancer that begins in the liver) and secondary (cancer that begins in some other locations and spread to the liver).
Functions of the Liver
The liver plays core functions in the body. This organ acts as a filter, purifying the blood from toxic substances that are later passed out of the body in the form of wastes. The liver also manufactures bile, a crucial juice that helps the body to digest fat, stores glycogen (sugar), and ensures the body can synthesize many types of proteins.
Diagnosis and Therapy
Due to the crucial role that the liver plays in the body, any liver disease threatens human survival. If your doctors detect lumps below your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen or other symptoms during a physical examination, they may suspect this cancer. They may order blood tests, ultrasound, and laparoscopy to be sure whether it is cancer.
Certain factors can affect your choice of therapy and prognosis (chance of survival). Some of these factors are your general health status, the stage of cancer, the way your liver is functioning, and the levels of alpha-fetoprotein.
Cancer therapy can only begin after a successful diagnosis. This cancer can be treated using surgery, percutaneous ethanol injection, chemotherapy, or a combination of two or all of these three methods.
Doctors can use three surgical strategies to treat this type of cancer.
- Total hepatectomy: removing the entire liver and replacing it with one from a healthy donor
- Partial hepatectomy: removing the affected part of the liver
- Radiofrequency ablation: Killing cancerous tissues using a probe with electrodes
Chemotherapy uses drugs to either prevent cancer cells from reproducing or kill these cells. This cancer therapy can be implemented systematically using pills or injections that travel through the whole body.
Chemoembolization of the hepatic artery is another type of chemotherapy that some cancer patients can benefit from. The chemotherapy drug is mixed with another chemical so as to block the artery. The aim of this therapy is to starve the tumor in the blood in order to kill it and to apply the drugs directly to the tumor. The hepatic portal vein is responsible for maintaining the liver’s blood flow.
Percutaneous Ethanol Injection
This therapy involves injecting ethanol into a tumor to destroy cancer. Though percutaneous ethanol injection is not used very often, it can be of great help to you if other options are ineffective.
Deciding on Therapy Options
The best way you can make a decision that bests fits your needs is discuss your therapy options, including their goals and likely adverse effects, with your doctor. During the discussions, there are some of the most important things that you need to consider.
- Your age and expected life span
- The Stage of your cancer
- The Effectiveness of surgery in your case
- Other serious health conditions that you have
- The possibility that the therapy will cure your cancer
If you need more information and time is on your side, you can get a second opinion from another qualified medical team. This can help you feel more certain about the treatment method you choose. And as you seek for more information, remember you increase your chances of survival by starting your treatment early. Seek the advice of your doctor if you are not sure where to get a second opinion.