When liver cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, patients have many more treatment options available to them. While some early-stage cancers have noticeable signs and symptoms, patients will often require diagnostic tests to determine precisely if the cancer has spread. After a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to understand the methods used to diagnose liver cancer and how cancer specialists determine the proper course of treatment.
How is Liver Cancer Diagnosed?
Early detection and diagnosis have been proven to significantly increase patient survival rates and quality of life. With this in mind, it’s important to speak with your doctor about which diagnostic tests are the right fit for you.
The most common tests and procedures used to diagnose liver cancer include the following:
- Blood tests may reveal liver function abnormalities.
- Imaging tests such as ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs are commonly used.
- Liver biopsies are often necessary to make a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer. During this procedure, a physician will insert a thin needle through the skin and into the liver to obtain a tissue sample. Doctors will then examine the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
How Are Treatment Decisions Made?
Once a patient receives a diagnosis, a team of specialists will work to determine the exact stage of the liver cancer. In addition to confirming a diagnosis, CT scans and liver biopsies are also beneficial for determining the stage of cancer and whether it has spread to other areas of the body.
Once the exact stage is known, a team of cancer specialists will consider the following factors when determining the most appropriate course of treatment:
- Is the cancer potentially resectable and removable with surgery?
- If the cancer is unresectable (inoperable), has it spread to other organs?
- Is the cancer in an advanced stage?
- Is the cancer recurrent?
Potentially Resectable Liver Cancer
If the liver cancer is in an early stage, this means it is potentially resectable or removable through surgery. An oncologist will also consider factors, like the size of the cancerous mass, involvement of blood vessels, and patient’s general health, to predict a favorable outcome after surgery.
Unresectable Liver Cancer
Unresectable liver cancers have not yet spread to other organs, but they are still unsafe to treat through surgical methods. This may be due to factors such as the following:
- Tumor is too large to remove surgically
- Tumor is close to a large blood vessel, making it very difficult to remove
- There are several tumors which cover a majority of the liver
- Patient has poor health or is too weak to undergo surgery
If a patient has unresectable liver cancer, an interventional oncologist may recommend treatments such as ablation, transarterial chemoembolization, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In some cases, these treatments may shrink the tumor enough where surgery becomes an option.
Advanced Liver Cancer
Advanced liver cancer is also called metastatic liver cancer, meaning it has spread to the lymph nodes or to other organs. Because the cancer is widespread, it cannot be treated with surgery. Some patients with advanced liver cancer may be eligible for treatment options like immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and radioembolization. These options can help control the spread of liver cancer, relieve symptoms, and maintain the patient’s quality of life.
Recurrent Liver Cancer
Recurrent liver cancer is a type of cancer that returns after treatments have been completed. This can either recur to the same place the cancer began, or it can spread to other organs like the lungs or bones. The treatment for this type of cancer will depend on factors such as the location of tumors, the initial treatment used, and how well the liver is functioning.
Speak With an Interventional Oncology Specialist to Find the Best Liver Cancer Treatment
At USA Oncology Centers, we are committed to providing the best possible care, so our patients can continue living happy, healthy lives. Our interventional radiologists are experts in treating liver cancer using targeted minimally invasive procedures performed under image guidance. Your liver cancer care is customized to your specific needs, whether you are a candidate for Y-90 SIRT, TACE, or Comprehensive Treatment Management.
If you were recently diagnosed with liver cancer, we will work with you to review your options and find a treatment that best suits your needs and goals. To learn more about our liver cancer treatments or to schedule an initial consultation, call us at 855.870.4747 today.
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