While there are several liver cancer treatments, the truth is any type of cancer can be hard to cure. Primary liver cancer is usually not detected in the early stages, which is when it’s easier to treat. Metastatic or secondary liver cancers are even harder to treat since the cancer has spread. At this stage, most of the treatments for liver cancer focus on extending the patient’s life.
Disease-directed treatment options can be categorized by whether they cure the condition altogether or improve survival. These treatments are typically recommended when the tumor gets detected early. The various methods used in this treatment include surgery, radiation, radiofrequency ablation or RFA, and chemotherapy.
When the tumor is discovered in the early stages, it can be easily removed. Here, patients have the best possible chances for long-term survival. However, in most cases, liver cancer treatments fail to achieve this goal. Sometimes, the liver is too damaged to allow surgery, or cancer has spread too much.
Liver cancer treatments can include the following methods:
1. Potentially resectable
When cancer is at an early stage and the remaining liver is healthy, a partial hepatectomy can be done for curing cancer. However, this treatment option applies only to a handful of patients. The result will depend on how big the tumor is and whether the surrounding blood vessels get affected. Large tumors that have invaded blood vessels may spread either inside the liver or outside it.
2. Potentially transplantable
When cancer is detected early but the remaining liver is not functioning as expected, a liver transplant could be an option. Transplant is also resorted to when the tumor is lodged in a place that is difficult to remove. But, liver transplant candidates have to wait to get the right donor.
3. Unresectable liver cancers
These are conditions when cancer has not spread to distant places or lymph nodes yet, but cannot be safely removed. Either the size of the tumor is too big, or it is in a part that is hard to remove. Sometimes, there are too many tumors that have spread all across the liver.
In such situations, you will need to undergo ablation, embolization, or sometimes both. Here, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy may help. None of these treatments can completely get rid of cancer, but they will alleviate the symptoms and extend your life-span.
4. Inoperable liver cancer
In the case of inoperable liver cancer, the patient in question is not strong enough to withstand surgery. Therefore, you have to settle for ablation, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
5. Advanced liver cancers
These are situations where the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. For this reason, the patient cannot be surgically treated. When your liver functions well, the doctor may try targeted therapy as a treatment method to control cancer growth. When drugs do not work, they try immunotherapy instead.
6. Recurrent liver cancer
It is when cancer returns. This recurrence may be either local, where the tumor originated, or distant, in bones, lungs, and other organs. Here, treatment options will depend on many factors. These include the location of the original tumor, treatment given during the first time, and the present condition of the liver. Such patients can opt for surgery and local treatments like embolization or ablation.