How is liver cancer treated?
General treatment information
After liver cancer is diagnosed and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Depending on your situation, you may have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors may include:
- A surgeon: a doctor who treats diseases with surgery.
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.
- A gastroenterologist: a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the digestive system, including the liver.
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health professionals.
In creating your treatment plan, important factors to consider include the stage (extent) of the cancer and the health of the rest of your liver. But you and your cancer care team will also want to take into account the possible side effects of treatment, your overall health, and the chances of curing the disease, extending life, or relieving symptoms. Based on these factors, your treatment options may include:
- Surgery (partial hepatectomy or liver transplant)
- Tumor ablation
- Tumor embolization
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
In some cases, doctors may recommend combining more than one of these treatments. It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about liver cancer?”
If time permits, it might also be a good idea to seek a second opinion, especially from doctors experienced in treating liver cancer. A second opinion might provide more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan being considered.
The next few sections describe the various types of treatments used for liver cancer. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches used for these cancers based on their stage.
Last Medical Review: 11/18/2014
Last Revised: 01/19/2016