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Liver Cancer Surgery

In cases of liver cancer, surgery may be used to treat the disease when the cancer is only in the liver and it has not spread. Types of surgery used to treat liver cancer include cryosurgery, liver replacement surgery, and surgery to remove the part of the liver with the cancer. For people with liver cancer, surgery may result in fatigue, pain, diarrhea, and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen in the days following surgery. The healthcare team will likely monitor the patient for signs of bleeding, infection, liver failure, and other serious problems requiring immediate treatment.

Liver Cancer Surgery: An Introduction

Liver cancer surgery is a treatment option for those patients with localized liver cancer. In order for liver cancer surgery to be considered in such cases:
 
  • The cancer must be found in the liver only
  • The cancer must not have spread
  • The cancer must be able to be completely removed by surgery.
     
Liver cancer surgery is also a treatment option for localized and locally advanced unresectable liver cancer. In order for liver cancer surgery to be considered with these types of cancer:
 
  • The cancer must be found in the liver only
  • The cancer must not have spread but cannot be completely removed by surgery.
     

Options for Liver Cancer Surgery

The following types of surgery may be used to treat liver cancer:
 
  • Cryosurgery: A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ (cancer that involves only the cells in which it began and that has not spread to nearby tissues). This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy. The doctor may use ultrasound to guide the instrument.
     
  • Partial hepatectomy: Removal of the part of the liver where the cancer is found. The part removed may be a wedge of tissue, an entire lobe, or a larger portion of the liver, along with some of the healthy tissue around it. The remaining liver tissue takes over the functions of the liver.
     
  • Total hepatectomy and liver transplant: Removal of the entire liver and replacement with a healthy donated liver. A liver transplant may be done when the disease is in the liver only and a donated liver can be found. If the patient has to wait for a donated liver, other treatment is given as needed.
     
  • Radiofrequency ablation: The use of a special probe with tiny electrodes that kill cancer cells. Sometimes, the probe is inserted directly through the skin and only local anesthesia is needed. In other cases, the probe is inserted through an incision in the abdomen. This is done in the hospital with general anesthesia.
     
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