Chemotherapy for primary liver cancer


Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be used to try and control the tumour and reduce the symptoms. It is not suitable for everyone because the liver may not be working well enough to cope with the drugs.

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

  • cisplatin (sometimes in combination with doxorubicin)
  • fluorouracil (5FU) in combination with oxaliplatin.

How chemotherapy is given

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 to allow the body to recover from the side effects.

You usually have chemotherapy as an outpatient in the chemotherapy unit. The nurse will explain how it will be given and what to expect. They may give you the drugs into a small cannula (tube) they put into your hand or arm. Some drugs are given as a drip (infusion) over a few hours.

Back to Chemotherapy explained

Your feelings

You may experience difficult feelings while having chemotherapy treatment. Talking these over can be helpful.

Where can you have chemotherapy?

You usually have chemotherapy in a chemotherapy day unit or clinic. If your treatment is more complex, you may need to stay in hospital.