It is important to understand that there is no cure for liver cancer. Treatment of primary liver cancer is determined by several factors such as- the extent (stage) of the disease, age of the patient, overall health and personal preferences. Aim of treatment for any cancer is to eliminate the cancer completely. But if this is not possible your doctor will focus on preventing the tumor from growing or spreading, increasing life expectancy and maintaining quality of life. Treatment options for liver cancer include:
Surgery: Partial hepatectomy that is surgery for removal of tumor with a portion of the liver may be done. This surgery is done if the tumor is small and the liver function is good. If the liver cancer can be removed surgically, your doctor will recommend it as the prognosis and life expectancy is improved.
Liver transplant: In liver transplant surgery, your liver which has cancer is removed and replaced with a healthy donor liver. It is done in people with early-stage liver cancer. After liver transplant, for early primary liver cancer, the rate of survival is 75 per cent for 5 years. Liver transplantation in patients with metastasis of cancer or secondary liver cancer is not done as the life expectancy remains extremely low.
Cryoablation of cancer cells: In this procedure the cancer cells are destroyed by freezing. Cryoablation is done using instrument (cryoprobe) containing liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen is injected directly onto liver tumors. It is done under ultrasound guidance. The ultrasound images help to guide the cryoprobe and monitor the freezing of the cells.
Radiofrequency ablation: In this technique electric current is used to heat and destroy cancer cells. The procedure is done under ultrasound or CT scan guidance. The surgeon inserts one or more thin needles through small incisions in your abdomen and then using ultrasound or CT scan image guidance reaches the tumor. The cancer cells are then destroyed by heating with an electric current.
Injecting alcohol into the tumor: In this procedure alcohol is used to heat and destroy cancer cells.Pure alcohol is injected directly into tumor which causes the tumor cells to die.
Chemotherapy: This is the main treatment modality for patients who have irremovable tumors secondary liver cancer. It may be sometimes used for treatment of primary liver cancer.
Chemoembolisation: In this treatment the anti-cancer drug is injected in the liver to destroy the cancer cells. The anti-cancer drugs are injected into the hepatic artery (the blood vessel which supplies blood to the liver cancer cells). After injecting the drug the artery is blocked, this delivers chemotherapy drugs to the cancer cells and cuts further blood flow to the cancer cells.
Radiation therapy: In this procedure high-powered energy beams are used to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for liver cancer may be given by an advanced technique called stereotactic radiosurgery. In this treatment many beams of radiation are focused concurrently at one point in the body. Radiotherapy can damage normal cells of the body as well and can cause side effects like fatigue, nausea and vomiting, erythema of skin.
[Read: Risks of Radiation Therapy]
Targeted drug therapy: Targeted drug therapy with Sorafenib aims to interfere with a tumor's ability to generate new blood vessels. Studies have shown that Sorafenib can slow or stop advanced hepatocellular carcinoma from progressing for a few months longer as compared to no treatment. However further studies are needed to understand how this and other targeted therapies can be used to control advanced liver cancer and improve prognosis.
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