Chemotherapy for liver cancer

Chemotherapy is not used very often for liver cancer. But it may be used to try to control the tumour and reduce symptoms.

About chemotherapy for liver cancer

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is not used very often for primary liver cancer. This is because doctors are concerned that it does not work very well for this type of cancer. However, it may be used to try to control the tumour and reduce symptoms. It is not suitable for everyone because the liver may not be working well enough to cope with the drugs.

How chemotherapy is given

Chemotherapy drugs may be given into a vein (intravenously) or as tablets. The most commonly used chemotherapy drug is doxorubicin.

Other chemotherapy drugs that may be used include:

You usually have chemotherapy as a session of treatments called cycles. Each cycle lasts a day or two, followed by a rest period of a few weeks. The rest period allows your body to recover.

You usually have chemotherapy as an outpatient in the chemotherapy unit. The nurse will explain what to expect. You may have the drugs through a cannula (small tube), which is put into a vein in your hand or arm. Some drugs are given as a drip (infusion) over a few hours.

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs may cause unpleasant side effects. These can usually be well controlled with medicines and will usually go away once treatment has finished. Not all drugs cause the same side effects and some people may have very few. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about what to expect from your treatment.

We have more information about the side effects of chemotherapy.