Liver cancer treatment
Liver cancer is a widespread type of tumor. It is caused by hepatitis B and C viruses that damage the DNA of liver cells and by long-term liver disease. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, radiosurgery, targeted therapy, and interventional radiology are all modern and effective ways to treat cancer.
Before we look for the best hospital or center for liver cancer treatment, let's look at why it happens and what can cure it.
An oncological condition known as liver cancer occurs when malignant cells infect the liver. There are two categories of liver cancer: primary (which results in initial liver damage) and secondary (metastases or penetration to the liver). Primary liver cancer depends on where it comes from:
- Liver cells produce hepatocellular cancer;
- Bile duct cells cause intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma;
- Cells lining the liver blood vessels can turn on hemangiosarcoma and angiosarcoma.
Only 5,7 % of patients get their first case of cancer identified. Oncologists frequently determine secondary liver cancer. In this instance, different areas are affected by the illness first. Cancer can occur in the uterus, ovaries, large intestine, stomach, lungs, kidneys, and breast glands. But, when the blood flows, tumor cells spread from other organs of the body and cause metastatic cancer to grow.
Primary and secondary liver cancer treatments are also different.
What makes liver cancer happen?
Damage to the DNA of liver cells is the leading cause of most liver tumors. Because of this, the number of abnormal cells grows, and the ability of hepatocytes to protect the body worsens. Most of the time, viruses that cause chronic hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV) infections are to blame for such DNA changes. More than 75-80% of patients have this virus.
Besides, there are:
- Cirrhosis. The most dangerous type of this disease is the one with big lumps. 70% of people with liver cancer have cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer develops quickly.
- Hemochromatosis. This disease causes a lot of iron to build up in different organs.
- Gallstone disease. When there are stones in the bile ducts, they cause inflammation, and the cells around them can become cancerous.
- Syphilis. When someone has syphilis, their liver cells can change into cancerous ones.
- Diabetes. The body's metabolism does not work correctly, and the liver becomes "fat." When combined with unhealthy habits, this makes the risk of cancer higher.
- Vermin. Worms that live in the liver poison it with their waste, which helps cells grow back.
- Drinking and smoking. When you drink a lot of alcohol, it kills liver cells, and nicotine makes them change.
- Other toxins. Aflatoxins are poisonous substances that mushrooms give off. By regularly eating the affected products, you increase the tumor risk.
If you have one or more of the risk factors listed above, it is a good idea to pay more attention to your health. At stage 1, liver cancer treatment is easier and more successful.
The list of common signs and symptoms
A person may not feel anything in the early stages of hepatocellular carcinoma. At first, general symptoms like losing your appetite, feeling sick and throwing up, being tired, and losing weight start to show. But over time, damage that gets worse causes specific signs:
- The condition is getting worse in general. They lose weight quickly and get tired easily. The child might even become too skinny.
- The digestive disorders that appear most often. The liver does not work properly. Because of this, the person starts to lose weight. You might also feel sick, throw up, have diarrhea, or have flatulence.
- The majority had the common syndrome of abdominal pain. People with cancer show this sign in the last stages of the disease. In the initial phases of a tumor, the pain syndrome is only felt during working out, jogging, or lifting something heavy. However, over time, even when at rest, the pain gets worse. At the same time, the belly gets bigger.
- The body's temperature increases. It gets to 38 degrees and doesn't go down because toxins poison the body.
- The skin turns yellow because the tumor blocks the bile duct. The color of the whites of the patient's eyes becomes the same. The urine gets darker, and the stool almost turns white.
- Ascites. With liver cancer, the abdomen can get bigger not only because of the growth of the neoplasm but also because fluid builds up in the stomach.
- Bleeding from the nose or inside the body.
In addition, people with the chronic liver disease say they don't have enough signs of cancer. But they can cause other health problems. Therefore, you should see a doctor immediately if you have any symptoms. At stage 4, liver cancer treatment options are fewer than in earlier phases.
Also, patients with chronic liver disease complain of deprivation of symptoms which points to cancer. However, they can be the cause of other disorders. Therefore, if any symptoms appear, you should immediately consult a doctor.
Tests that can accurately spot liver tumors
Lesions in the liver caused by cancer are hard to diagnose because there are often no signs in the early stages. But, there are tests for people who are at high risk. Doctors recommend an ultrasound and a blood test for specific proteins whose level in the blood increases with liver cancer. Patients with chronic liver disease should do this every six months to avoid the situation of searching for inoperable liver cancer treatment.
The main tests for diagnosing liver cancer are:
- An ultrasound is an easiest and quickest way to see a liver tumor growing.
- Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels in the blood can be used to diagnose liver tumors. Furthermore, it helps to see how well the treatment worked and if cancer might return after it is gone.
- Computed tomography uses X-rays to clearly show where, how large, and what shape a tumor is.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using radio waves and magnets, MRI is the most accurate way to look at the soft tissues of the liver, the organs around it, and the blood vessels.
- Angiograms use X-rays to look at the blood vessels.
- Laparoscopy. Through a small cut in the abdomen, the doctor puts in a tool that lets him look at the liver and other organs and take a biopsy.
- During a procedure, cells or tissues from the liver are looked at under a microscope. It is the primary way to determine if someone has cancer, and how malignant it is.
Liver cancer is broken up into stages:
Stage I—a single small tumor in one lobe of the liver without damage to the blood vessels or spread to other parts of the body;
Stage II—a single large neoplasm or several small ones, with no damage to the blood vessels or spread of cancer;
Stage III—cancer enters blood vessels but does not spread;
Stage IV—multiple tumors of different sizes can spread to blood vessels and organs nearby.
For example, at stage 2, liver cancer treatment is more complex. Still, it is a good chance to eliminate it with the proper choice of clinic and doctor.
What kinds of treatments are there for cancer of the liver?
We understand that the diagnosis of cancer scares people. But, before looking for alternative liver cancer treatment options, it is a way to know about proven methods. The treatment for a liver tumor depends on the tumor type, the disease stage, and the patient's characteristics. There are three ways to treat liver cancer: surgery, radiation, and medicine. Sometimes it's best to combine two or all three methods. Surgery works best in the early stages.
Surgery. The primary way to get rid of liver tumors is through an operation. It involves removing the sick part and, in some cases, getting a new liver. But surgery has a lot of side effects, and most people aren't good candidates for it. Because of this, there are many non-invasive options available today:
Chemotherapy drugs for liver cancer treatment are a non-operative way to kill cancer cells. The drugs can be given systemically (through an IV or by mouth) or locally (through an artery). When an artery is blocked simultaneously, chemotherapy drugs are put into a neoplasm's blood vessel. The method is called transarterial chemoembolization. A specific type of chemotherapy used to increase the amount of medicine in a tumor is called transarterial chemoperfusion.
Immunotherapy treatment for liver cancer is a way to rid the body of tumor cells by boosting the body's natural ability to fight it (its immunity). Target therapy is based on the idea that drugs can attack cancer cells in a specific way. In this case, the healthy parts of the body remain unhurt. So, the method is effective for advanced liver cancer treatments for patients who can't get radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Radioembolisation puts the radioactive material into the arteries that feed the cancerous growth. These particles cause cancer to be irradiated from the inside and eliminate malignant cells.
Ionizing radiation is used a lot in radiotherapy to treat liver cancer. But, different modern devices that use radiation have other side effects. One type of radiation therapy that can cure hepatocellular carcinoma without hurting nearby tissues is proton therapy. That’s why proton beams are better than standard radiotherapy.
Radiosurgery is a modern way to kill cancer cells without cutting them out. It does this by using precise radiation. CyberKnife and GammaKnife are radiosurgery systems. These can target and safely irradiate tumors without hurting the tissues around them.
High-intensity focused ultrasound is a way to target liver cancer cells within a small area. Oncologists commonly used radio waves, microwaves, alcohol, and liquid nitrogen freezing to destroy cancer. These are called ablations: radiofrequency, microwave, ethanol, and cryosurgical.
Any therapy, including the best alternative treatments for liver cancer, aims to get positive results. If the surgeon can't get rid of the tumor completely, the goal should be to kill as much of it as possible. It helps stop cancer from worsening, spreading, or returning over time. Sometimes the only goal of treatment is to make symptoms better. In this situation, we are talking about palliative treatment for liver cancer.
What can I expect if I have cancer of the liver?
The prognosis for a liver tumor depends on multiple factors. They include the kind of cancer, size, and number of lesions, where they are, and if they have spread to other organs, blood vessels, or metastasized. The average chance of a patient living for five years is 18%. However, 70% of patients will have cancer again within five years.
Those with liver cancer who are healthy enough for surgery have a 60% to 70% chance of living for five years after the operation. Moreover, their chance of getting cancer again is reduced to 15%.
How quickly does cancer of the liver spread?
The way that liver cancer spreads depends on the type of cancer and the person who has it. Liver cancer moves and spreads very quickly, which is a bad thing. Most of the time, liver tumors first spread to the pancreas or colon.
How to diagnose liver cancer?
In the early stages, when a person has no symptoms, it is hard to tell if someone has liver cancer. People who are at risk should get regular screening tests and ultrasounds. It gives doctors a way to find cancer early. CT scans, MRIs, angiographies, and liver tissue biopsies are all modern ways to make sure of the diagnosis.
How long do people with liver cancer usually live?
People with liver cancer have many things that can affect how long they will live. At stage one, a person can live for about three years without any treatment. If liver cancer is treated well, 50–70% of people will still be alive after five years. It's also important to know that 18% of patients may get cancer again after successful therapy.
If liver cancer is caught early, how can it be cured?
If liver cancer is found early, it can often be treated with surgery or ablation. But whether or not the procedure works depends on the size of the tumor and where it is. Also, the patient shouldn't have any problems that aren't allowed by the Milan criteria.
What factors affect a patient's survival?
Your outcome is affected by how you're treated, as well as how long chemo treatment for liver cancer last and a variety of other concerns. Treating cancer depends on how big it is and if it has spread. It also depends on the health of your liver tissue that cancer hasn't affected, like if you have liver cirrhosis. Your overall health and fitness also affect your ability to survive.
Where can I get Liver cancer treatment?
What are the best clinics for Liver cancer treatment?
Who are the best doctors for Liver cancer?
Prof. Dr. med. Hans Hoffmann from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Philipp M. Paprottka from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Roland M. Schmid from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Florian Bassermann from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
Prof. Dr. med. Helmut Friess from University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich