Surgery is usually the recommended treatment for liver cancer if the tumor is limited to one area of the liver and hasn’t spread to nearby blood vessels, and if the liver is otherwise healthy enough. But for many patients, surgery isn’t the best option — or even possible, according to a panel of Memorial Sloan Kettering liver cancer experts. A variety of reasons, including underlying liver disease or the location, size, and number of tumors, can make treatment more challenging.
For those patients, the liver cancer treatment team may recommend other strategies as an alternative or complement to surgery. Those treatments can include chemotherapy, a liver transplant, or minimally invasive procedures that can destroy or interfere with tumor growth, including:
- Delivering cancer-killing chemotherapy drugs via a catheter into the artery feeding the tumor, in a procedure known as chemoembolism
- Injecting substances into the liver that cut off the blood supply the tumor needs for growth
- Ablation, which involves inserting a heated probe into the tumor to kill it
- Internal radiation therapy, which consists of injecting microscopic, radiation-packed capsules into the artery that supplies blood to the tumor.
The panel — which included a Memorial Sloan Kettering hepatologist (liver specialist), two oncologists, and a surgeon — discussed the latest advances in liver cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and research during a CancerSmart talk in May.