How to treat liver cancer?

Home / Liver Medically Reviewed by Edith Anderson, RN

When you are diagnosed with liver cancer, you will likely have many questions regarding the care you will receive as well as your treatment options and their level of effectiveness. As with most cancers, the way you treat liver cancer will depend on the stage of development your cancer is in. Stage one refers to cancer that has not spread beyond the liver, while higher stages mean that cancer has been found in surrounding organs or tissues, or even throughout the body. Therefore, the ways you can treat liver cancer vary from targeted surgery for early stage cancers, and full body radiation therapy for more advanced stages.

Surgery is the most effective way to treat liver cancer in order to provide a full recovery. Procedures can include surgery to remove the cancer from the body, or a full liver transplant. If the cancer has spread beyond the liver, surgery may be done in combination with other therapies to remove any remaining cancer cells.

Removing the cancer through surgery is not always possible. Patients with diseased livers due to drinking or other activities may not have enough healthy liver to make removal possible. Others have cancer in several areas of the liver. A liver transplant offers the best chances of survival for those in these circumstances, especially since liver transplants can be performed using live donors.

Unfortunately, liver cancer patients are often last on the list to receive organ donations, even with live donors being available. Donor organs are generally reserved for those with more treatable diseases which have a smaller chance of recurrence. The best chance of receiving a transplant, therefore, is through a family member who is willing and able to donate part of their liver.

Another primary way to treat liver cancer is through radiation. This uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells and help to shrink tumors. The downside to this treatment is that radiation can only be used in very small doses because it not only kills cancerous cells, but healthy liver cells as well. Newer technologies have become available to allow radiation to target only cancer cells, although this procedure may not be available everywhere. This is done by combining radiation medications or sometimes chemotherapy medications and embolization, which means that either medications are inserted into a tube and transferred directly to the tumor.

There are also many alternative or holistic approaches to curing cancer. These can include injecting high levels of certain vitamins or minerals into the body intravenously, as well as factors such as acupuncture and nutrition. Other treatments may include using ozone to target and kill cancer cells in combination with other natural therapies. Some practitioners claim an almost perfect cure rate, although these claims are still being researched.