Liver Cancer Treatment, Side Effects and Support

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, our liver cancer experts build a customized treatment plan around your needs. We consider the type, location, and stage of your cancer, as well as your personal preferences and overall health, to safely and effectively treat your cancer. Your expert team includes oncologists, pathologists and highly skilled support staff, working together to ensure you receive comprehensive care to treat your liver cancer.

How Is Liver Cancer Treated?

Liver cancer is difficult to treat in its later stages. If found early, liver cancer has a much higher chance for successful treatment. Your treatment options will depend on your:

  • Cancer stage
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Overall health

Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following therapies to treat or manage your liver cancer symptoms:

  • Surgery: Surgery is your best chance for successful liver cancer treatment. Surgeons will remove the cancer, while leaving as much healthy liver as possible. If liver damage is too extensive, you may need a full liver transplant.
  • Tumor ablation: Heat (radiofrequency ablation) or extreme cold (cryosurgery or cryotherapy) is used to freeze or burn the liver cancer away.
  • Embolization: Tiny pellets are injected in the arteries that carry blood to the tumor to block blood flow, which makes it harder for liver cancer to grow.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy may be used to shrink the tumor or relieve pain.
  • Proton therapy: High radiation is delivered directly into the liver tumor.
  • Chemotherapy: Standard chemotherapy is not effective in most patients with liver cancer; however, new treatments such as chemoembolization are starting to become available.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs block the growth and spread of the cancer, limiting damage to healthy cells.
  • Clinical trials: Talk to your doctor about clinical trials offered at Banner MD Anderson.

What Are Side Effects of Liver Cancer Treatment?

Your body will need time to recover from liver cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about any pain, issues or new symptoms you are feeling throughout your treatment process. Banner MD Anderson’s team of specialists can help relieve your symptoms and get you the care you need.

The following are the most common symptoms of liver cancer treatment:

  • Percutaneous Ethanol Injection: Fever, pain
  • Cryosurgery: Generally faster healing, low pain
  • Hepatic Arterial Infusion: Infection and problems with a pump device
  • Chemoembolization: Nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain
  • Radiation therapy: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, problems with digestion
  • Chemotherapy: Hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores
  • Liver transplants: Several weeks in the hospital to recover

When you undergo liver treatment, most doctors recommend you do not use acetaminophen to relieve pain as it can damage the liver.

Liver Cancer Treatment Support

Liver cancer takes both a physical and emotional toll. Our Integrative Oncology Program provides patients compassionate support, resources and therapies to help take care of the whole person, not just the cancer.