This page is about treatment for primary liver cancer (cancer that started in the liver). We have other information about treatment for secondary liver cancer (cancer that has spread to the liver).
The treatment you have for liver cancer will usually depend on:
- where the cancer is in the liver
- the size of the tumour or tumours
- how many tumours there are
- whether the cancer has spread outside the liver
- whether any important blood vessels in the liver are affected
- how well your liver is working
- your general health.
Doctors are looking at newer treatments and different ways of giving existing treatments. Your specialist may talk to you about taking part in a research trial.
We understand that having treatment can be a difficult time for people. We're here to support you. If you want to talk, you can:
This is sometimes called palliative treatment or supportive care. You might need help to control symptoms, such as:
- ascites - a build-up of fluid in the tummy area (abdomen).
- jaundice - yellowing of the eyes and skin, feeling itchy, pale poo (stools) or very dark pee (urine).
Treatments may include:
Surgery may cure HCC. Surgery may involve a liver transplant or an operation to remove part of the liver. But often surgery is not possible. This might be because the cancer is too advanced or the liver is too damaged to cope with surgery.
In chemoembolisation, a chemotherapy drug is put into the liver and the blood supply to the tumour is cut off. Doctors may recommend this treatment when the cancer is advanced in the liver but has not spread outside it. It may help to control the cancer.
Some people have a type of high-dose radiotherapy that closely targets tumours in the liver. This is called stereotactic radiotherapy. It is used to try and control areas of cancer in the liver. Radiotherapy can also be used to ease symptoms such as pain. You may have this treatment if the cancer has spread to a part of the body, such as the bones. This is called palliative radiotherapy.
If you decide not to have treatment, there is a still a lot that can be done to control symptoms and support you. Your doctor can refer you to a team of doctors and nurses who specialise in controlling symptoms. This is called a palliative care team.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our primary liver cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Melloul E, Hübner M, Scott M, et al. Guidelines for perioperative care for liver surgery: Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Society recommendations. World J Surg. 2016; 40: 2425–2440. Available from: doi.org/10.1007/s00268-016-3700-1 [accessed Feb 2020]
NICE. Lenvatinib for untreated advanced hepatocellular carcinoma: Technology appraisal guidance (TA 551) [Internet]. 2018. Available from: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/TA551 [accessed Feb 2020]
NICE. Liver disease. Quality standard (QS 152) [Internet]. 2017. Available from: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/QS152 [accessed Feb 2020]
NICE. Liver cancers overview [Internet]. 2019. Available from: pathways.nice.org.uk/pathways/liver-cancers/liver-cancers-overview [accessed Feb 2020]
NICE. Regorafenib for previously treated advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. Technology appraisal guidance (TA555) [Internet]. 2019. Available from: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ta555 [accessed Feb 2020]
Vogel A, Cervantes A, Chau I, et al. Hepatocellular carcinoma: ESMO Clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. 2018; 29 (S4): iv238–iv255. Available from doi.org/10.1093/annonc/mdy510 [accessed Feb 2020]
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Dr Paul Ross, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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