How treatment for secondary cancer in the liver is planned

In most hospitals, a team of specialists (multidisciplinary team) will decide which treatment they feel is best for your situation. Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

If two treatments are equally effective for the type of cancer you have, your doctors may offer you a choice. You might want to ask more about what each treatment involves, and about possible side-effects, before you decide what is right for you.

Your multidisciplinary team uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you. Even so, if you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion.

Treatment can be given for different reasons and the potential benefits will vary depending upon your individual situation. If you choose not to have treatment, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care, with medicines to control any symptoms.

Your multidisciplinary team (MDT)

In most hospitals, a team of specialists will decide which treatment they feel is best for your situation.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a surgeon who specialises in liver cancers
  • an oncologist (cancer specialist) who specialises in chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • a radiologist who analyses scans and x-rays
  • a pathologist who advises on the type and extent of the cancer
  • a nurse specialist.

The team may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a surgeon who specialises in the primary cancer, a dietitian, a palliative care specialist, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a psychologist and a counsellor.


Treatment choices

If two treatments are equally effective for the type of cancer you have, your doctors may offer you a choice. You might want to ask more about what each treatment involves, and about possible side effects, before you decide what is right for you. Make a list of the questions you want to ask and take a relative or close friend with you. You may also find it helpful to keep notes about what has been said.


Getting a second opinion

Your multidisciplinary team (MDT) uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you. Even so, you may want another medical opinion. If you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion.

Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information. If you do go for a second opinion, it may be a good idea to take a relative or friend with you, and have a list of questions ready, so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.

We have more information about getting a second opinion.


Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you don't understand what you've been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it's not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It's a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it's important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don't have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don't have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.


The benefits and disadvantages of treatment

Many people are frightened at the idea of having cancer treatments, particularly because of the side effects that can occur. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines. Treatment can be given for different reasons and the potential benefits will vary depending upon your individual situation.

For many people with secondary cancer in the liver, the treatment will only be able to control it, leading to an improvement in symptoms and a better quality of life.

However, for some people in this situation the treatment will have no effect upon the cancer and they'll get the side effects with little benefit.

For a few people with secondary cancer in the liver, the treatment will aim to cure the cancer. It's important to discuss the aims of your treatment with your doctors.

If you’ve been offered treatment that aims to cure the cancer, deciding whether to accept it may not be difficult. However, if a cure is not possible and the purpose of treatment is to control the cancer for a period of time, it may be more difficult to decide whether to go ahead.

Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss in detail with your doctor whether you wish to have treatment.

If you choose not to have it, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care, with medicines to control any symptoms.

Back to Who will be involved in my treatment decision?

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.