Every year in the United States, over 30,000 men and women are diagnosed with liver cancer.1 For each diagnosis, there are multiple treatment paths available for each liver cancer patient.
Treatment for liver cancer can come in many forms, from surgery to radiation therapy to alternative therapies. But which targeted therapy or treatment works best will depend on the patient’s health, the stage of their cancer and liver function, and a variety of other health factors.
Read on to learn more about liver cancer treatment and cancer care options .
Treatment According to Staging
According to the American Joint Committee on Cancer, liver cancer breaks down into the following stages:
- Stage IA – The cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body. A single tumor at 2 centimeters or smaller has been detected but hasn’t grown into blood vessels.
- Stage IB – The cancer has not spread into lymph nodes or other sites of the body. Additionally, a tumor larger than 2 centimeters has been found but hasn’t spread into blood vessels.
- Stage II – Stage II liver cancer indicates that a tumor larger than 2 centimeters has grown into the blood vessels of the liver or more than one tumor has been detected but none larger than 5 centimeters across. The cancer has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other sites of the body.
- Stage IIIA – At stage IIIA of liver cancer, more than one tumor has been detected and at least one tumor is larger than 5 centimeters across. At this stage, the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other places in the body.
- Stage IIIB – When at least one tumor of any size has grown into a major branch of a large vein of the liver, medical professionals would diagnose the cancer at stage IIIB. At this point, the cancer still has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
- Stage IVA – When this advanced liver cancer reaches stage IVA, a single tumor or multiple tumors (regardless of size) has spread to the lymph nodes near the liver but not to other sites.
- Stage IVB – At stage IVB, a single tumor (or multiple tumors) have spread to distant organs, though they may or may not have spread to lymph nodes near the liver.
Liver Cancer Treatment Options
Depending on the stage of cancer, each patient will require their own unique treatment plan to address their body’s needs and liver cancer diagnosis.
Stage I and II: Resectable or Transplantable Liver Cancers
You’ve probably wondered, is liver cancer curable? In the early stages of liver cancer, medical professionals will run tests to see if a cancer is resectable—meaning it can be removed surgically—or transplantable—meaning the patient can receive an organ donation to help treat and even cure the cancer.
These treatment options are most common for stage I and some stage II cancers:
- Liver Surgery – A patient may be a candidate for a surgical resection if most of their liver is healthy. Once the cancerous part of the liver is removed, the healthy liver can regenerate itself. If a cancer is considered resectable, a patient may not need additional treatments to help cure their cancer, though some clinical studies are looking at the effectiveness of other treatments like chemoembolization will help liver cancer patients live longer.
- Transplant – Sometimes, a liver cancer might be diagnosed in an early stage but the rest of the liver isn’t healthy or the tumor is in a part of the liver that’s difficult to remove without harming the patient. In these cases, a liver transplant may be a suitable treatment plan.
Liver transplantation is a surgical procedure performed to remove a diseased or injured liver from one person and replace it with a whole or a portion of a healthy liver from another person, called the donor.Since the liver is the only organ in the body able to regenerate, or grow back, a transplanted segment of a liver can grow to normal size within a few months. 2
Stage I–III: Inoperable Liver Cancers That Haven’t Spread
A cancer is considered “inoperable” when medical professionals deem the tumor unsafe to be removed. This can occur in almost every stage of liver cancer for a variety of reasons, including:
- A tumor is too large to be safely resected.
- A tumor resides in a part of the liver that may pose a surgical risk—for example, it’s very close to a large blood vessel.
- There are numerous tumors.
- The tumors have spread throughout the liver.
- The patient may not be considered healthy enough to undergo surgery.
When a cancer is inoperable, there are still many treatment paths a medical professional may recommend, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or alternative therapies.
Stage IV: Metastatic Liver Cancers
When the cancer has spread beyond the liver and its nearby lymph nodes, targeted drug therapy is the most common treatment path. A cancer specialist may also point a patient toward clinical trials that involve new drug therapies, various approaches to chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments for metastatic liver cancer.
Alternative Treatment Options
Depending on the extent of the cancer, patients may opt for non-invasive treatment options that focus on bolstering the immune system. In which case, patients may opt for alternative therapies, like:
These are often used in conjunction to enhance the effects.
Consider Your Options with Immunity Therapy Center
Understanding your liver cancer treatment options may feel daunting, but you don’t have to go it alone. At Immunity Therapy Center, we can help design a treatment program attuned to you through natural, non-invasive therapies that work with your body against cancer. Give us a call today, and let’s talk about how we can help you take the first step on your treatment journey.
If you’re interested in learning more about what is liver cancer, different types of liver cancer, and how liver cancer is detected, check out our blog.
Written By: Dr. Adolfo Carrillo
Dr. Adolfo Carrillo is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Carrillo has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista for over 5 years as a treating physician at the Immunity the Immunity Therapy Center. Dr. Carrillo is a charismatic Doctor whose knowledge and commitment to patient care and bringing healing to patients is a valuable asset to our center.
- CDC. Liver Cancer. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/liver/index.htm
- American Cancer Society. Liver Cancer Stages. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html
- American Liver Foundation. Liver Transplant. https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/liver-transplant/
- American Cancer Society. Ablation for Liver Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/treating/tumor-ablation.html
- American Cancer Society. Embolization Therapy for Liver Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/treating/embolization-therapy.html
- National Cancer Institute. Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.