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Liver Cancer Treatment by Stage

Treatment for Localized Resectable Liver Cancer

Localized resectable liver cancer is cancer that can be removed during surgery. There is no evidence that the cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body. In addition, lab tests show that the liver is working well.
Treatment for localized resectable adult primary liver cancer may include the following:
  • Partial hepatectomy
  • Total hepatectomy and liver transplant.
Surgery to remove part of the liver is called partial hepatectomy. The extent of the surgery depends on the size, number, and location of the tumors. It also depends on how well the liver is working. The doctor may remove a wedge of tissue that contains the liver tumor, an entire lobe, or an even larger portion of the liver. The remaining healthy tissue takes over the functions of the liver.
For a few patients, liver transplantation may be an option. For this procedure, the transplant surgeon removes the patient's entire liver (total hepatectomy) and replaces it with a healthy liver from a donor. A liver transplant is an option only if the disease has not spread outside the liver and only if a suitable donated liver can be found. While the patient waits for a donated liver to become available, the healthcare team monitors the patient's health and provides other treatments, as necessary.

Treatment for Localized and Locally Advanced Unresectable Liver Cancer

Localized unresectable liver cancer cannot be removed by surgery, even though it has not spread to the nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body. Surgery to remove the tumor is not possible because of cirrhosis (or other conditions that cause poor liver function), the location of the tumor within the liver, or other health problems.
Patients with localized unresectable liver cancer may receive other treatments to control the disease and extend their quality of life.
Treatment for localized and locally advanced unresectable adult primary liver cancer may include the following:
  • Cryosurgery or radiofrequency ablation
  • Percutaneous ethanol injection
  • Chemotherapy (chemoembolization, regional chemotherapy, or systemic chemotherapy)
  • Radiation therapy with radiosensitizers
  • Surgery (total hepatectomy) and liver transplant.
In cryosurgery, the doctor makes an incision into the abdomen and inserts a metal probe to freeze and kill cancer cells. The doctor may use ultrasound to help guide the probe.
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