Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
The physical exam combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, liver cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery is the only procedure used to try to cure liver cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can reduce symptoms associated with the cancer. They are not considered able to cure liver cancer by themselves.
Surgery—Removal of the cancerous tumor and nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes.
Cryosurgery—Destroys tumors by freezing them with a metal probe.
Ethanol ablation—Kills cancer cells by injecting alcohol directly into the tumor.
—The use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be:
External radiation therapy—Radiation is directed at the liver from a source outside the body.
Internal radiation therapy—Radiation is placed as close as possible to the cancer cells. Radiation seeds or compounds are delivered directly to the tumor through a special catheter that is placed in the hepatic artery, which delivers blood to the liver.
—This involves using heat to destroy the tumor. Imaging machines are used to guide the probe to the tumor site.
—Drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body to kill mostly cancer cells and some healthy cells; may be given by pill, injection, and via a catheter directly into the liver.
Sorafenib—A new class of therapies targeting vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGF); used for advanced liver cancer.
Biological therapy—The use of medications or substances made by the body to increase or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer; also called
biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.
Hepatocellular carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated July 22, 2014. Accessed August 15, 2014.
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Liver cancer. National Cancer Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed August 15, 2014.
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