There are many treatment options when it comes to liver cancer; the most common include surgery, cryotherapy, radiofrequency ablation (RFA), percutaneous injection, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. It does not mean all patients receive all these therapies. The physician chooses an option or a combination of these liver treatment options, depending on your health status and the size and extent of the tumor.
It is important for the treatment to be appropriate for your situation. During a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting, several health care professionals of different specialties discuss and choose the therapy (ies) which will provide the best result. The final decision will be presented to you for approval. You can also be invited to participate in a clinical trial.
Surgery – surgical therapy is the first choice of hepatic cancer treatment whenever it is possible. The surgical procedure often performed is called liver resection, or partial hepatectomy. Various conditions must be met: non-metastatic, the tumor should not have spread beyond the liver; the liver must be able to be resected; and the surgeon must also ensure that the remaining healthy liver volume is sufficient for normal function.
Liver tissues have the ability to regenerate, at least partially. Thus, in the weeks following partial hepatectomy, the liver volume will increase by itself, although it will never return to its original size. But sometimes a liver cancer surgery can be more drastic.
In advanced cases, the surgeon can perform a total hepatectomy which will be followed by a liver transplant. This is an advanced procedure in which the surgeon removes entirely the diseased liver and replaces it with a healthy one or lobe from a compatible donor. Note that it is rare that it is possible to perform a liver transplant to treat a primitive liver cancer.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) – When removal of the tumor by surgery is not possible, radiofrequency ablation is most often used. This is a local therapeutic approach which involves inserting small electrodes directly in the liver to cause electric shock that burns the malignant cells. Depending on circumstances, radiofrequency ablation for liver cancer can be practiced under local or general anesthesia.
Targeted Therapy – this type of cancer treatment is increasingly used in addition to other therapies to fight the factors contributing to the growth of the tumor. For example, antiangiogenic agents can be used to block the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) that allow the certain tumors to grow. Targeted therapy for liver cancer is still considered as a new therapeutic weapon in the fight against the disease. But it is very promising. There a lot of interest and hope in the medical community.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy offers an alternative when surgery or local destruction of the tumor is not possible. Liver cancer chemo is also used in case of recurrence. The chemotherapy drugs can be taken intravenously or orally to attack and damage cancer cells in the entire body. In the case of primary liver cancer, it is sometimes possible to inject chemo drugs directly into the tumor or into the artery that supplies blood to the liver, which helps mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy.
Percutaneous Injection – in the treatment of liver cancer, this method involves accessing to the liver via needle-puncture of the skin in order to destroy the cancer cells by injecting ethanol or acetic acid. It works by dehydrating and causing their necrosis (cell death) of the cancerous cells. This procedure can be performed under local anesthesia and can be repeated if the tumor does not disappear entirely. But it is also less and less used nowadays.
Cryosurgery – this therapy is also rarely used in the treatment of liver cancer nowadays. It mostly replaced by radiofrequency ablation, the destruction of hepatic cancer cells with heat. This technique consists of inserting a probe in the liver containing liquid nitrogen at -200 ° C in order to burn, by intense cold, the mass of the cancerous cells.
Radiotherapy – radiation therapy is rarely used as a primary liver cancer treatment. The reason is because hepatic cancer is very little sensitive to radiotherapy.
Sometimes none of the conventional methods works, alternative therapies may help certain patients who don’t get any success with the conventional liver cancer treatment. Visit our Alternative Cancer Treatments section for all complementary approaches that have been subject of studies andcontroversy: Marijuana or cannabis oil, baking soda, colloidal silver water, bitter apricot kernels, and others. These approaches may be suitable when used as a complement to medical treatments, not to replace them. And some of them, such as marijuana and bitter apricot kernels (also known as B17, laetrile, amygdalin), are illegal or not fully legal in the US.
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