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Treatment Available for Liver Cancer

Treatment Available for Liver Cancer

According to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) Liver Center, approximately 16 million Filipinos are chronic carriers of hepatitis B infection, a known risk factor for liver cancer. Alarmingly, 15 to 25 % of them are at risk of developing complications, like liver cirrhosis and cancer. This is why early detection is crucial. But, what if someone is already diagnosed? What are the treatment options available for liver cancer?

What Happens in Liver Cancer: All You Need To Know

What factors influence liver cancer treatment?

The doctor considers several factors when choosing among the treatments available for liver cancer. Some of those factors are:

  • The characteristics of the tumor (it’s size, single or multiple tumors)
  • The tumor’s location
  • Whether or not it has spread
  • Your overall condition or general health

Doctors determine these things during the staging process. Please note that you may need to undergo several tests before they can identify your liver cancer stage.

treatment available for liver cancer

What treatment options are available for liver cancer?

Now, let’s talk about the strategies to beat liver cancer. Below are the things the doctor may discuss with you:


The first option to treat liver cancer is surgery.

Doctors recommend this to a patient who has a small tumor that hasn’t spread yet and whose liver is still generally healthy. Please keep in mind that surgery (partial hepatectomy) removes not only the tumor, but also a portion of your liver.

Recovery after this operation takes a long time, but since it removes the tumor, cancer growth and spread can be prevented.

Liver transplant

When we think of available treatment options for liver cancer, we mostly associate transplant as a last resort. And it’s quite understandable because liver transplant candidates often need to wait a long time before they can proceed with the procedure.

Doctors generally recommend liver transplants to patients with a small tumor, especially those whose liver is no longer healthy. It’s also an option if the tumor is in a risky location; for instance, it’s near a major vein.

Successful liver transplant not only reduces the risk of recurrence, but also restores normal liver function.

Localized treatment

In this method, the doctor “targets” the tumor directly in the liver. It can be achieved in several ways:

  • Chemoembolization: This strategy to treat liver cancer administers anti-cancer drugs directly into the liver to kill or destroy cancer cells.
  • Radiation beads: Instead of anti-cancer drugs, the doctor may use beads that contain radiation. The doctor then places those bids directly in the liver tumor.
  • Alcohol injection: Another method is to inject pure alcohol directly into the liver. Alcohol causes cancer cells to die.
  • Heating and freezing cancer cells: To destroy cancer cells, the doctor may also use heat (radiofrequency ablation) or freeze them (cryoablation).

Radiation therapy

Another available treatment option for liver cancer is radiotherapy. In this procedure, the patient lies down on the table while an x-ray-emitting machine directs rays to the liver to kill cancer cells.

Doctors may recommend this strategy to treat liver cancer if the patient cannot receive other treatment or other methods didn’t help.

Targeted drug therapy and chemotherapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific characteristics of the tumor, which causes cancer cells to die. Chemotherapy is similar in the sense that it also uses drugs; however, unlike targeted therapy, chemo is systemic; that’s why it may also affect the body’s normal cells.

Doctors can use one of these methods in advanced liver cancer.

Chemotherapy in Cancer Treatment: All You Need to Know

What about alternative treatments?

Sometimes, when patients feel severe pain due to their cancer, the doctor may consider alternative treatments, especially if pain medicines bring considerable side effects.

Examples of alternative treatments that the doctor may approve of are:

  • Relaxation techniques (breathing exercises, etc.)
  • Acupuncture or acupressure
  • Massage

Please refrain from using alternative treatment or medicines that your doctor has not approved of yet. No matter how harmless they may seem, there’s still a possibility that they will affect your current treatment.

Key Takeaways

The treatment options available for liver cancer depend on several factors, like the liver cancer stage and the patient’s overall condition. Common strategies include surgery, targeted therapy, chemo, and radiotherapy.

Learn more about Liver Cancer here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 01
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.