Because it is usually not detected until at a late stage, liver cancer poses unique challenges that demand specialized care.
If you or a loved one is facing liver cancer, you need a team of physicians and clinicians with expertise in diagnosing and staging the disease, as well as access to the most advanced technologies and therapies to fight it.
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Scripps Health is the place in San Diego with the latest surgical procedures, state-of-the-art radiation therapy and chemotherapy for treating liver cancer. Across the county, we have affiliated physicians and premiere facilities to treat cancer and care for patients.
Scripps is also internationally recognized for liver transplants. We established the region’s first liver transplant program as part of our commitment to helping patients with complex gastrointestinal cancers, including liver cancer.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Scripps Green Hospital among the best in the nation for gastroenterlogy and gastrointestinal surgery.
In adults, primary liver cancer (originating in the organ) can be one of the following types:
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type
- Cholangiocarcinoma starts in the bile ducts of the liver
- Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are fast-growing liver cancers that begin in the blood vessels of the organ
More than 80 percent of those diagnosed with liver cancer also have cirrhosis of the liver, according to the American Cancer Society. Many doctors recommend ultrasound imaging and an alpha fetoprotein (AFP) blood test to screen patients considered at higher risk for developing liver cancer, due to a family history of the disease, cirrhosis of the liver or chronic hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus.
Treatment plans for liver cancer depend on several factors, including type of liver cancer, its stage, the presence of any underlying liver disease(s), patient age and overall health.
Our aim is to completely eliminate your cancer. But in some cases, your physician will recommend short-term treatments designed to address symptoms or manage the disease until you are able to receive a liver transplant.
In addition to liver cancer that originates in the organ, patients may also be diagnosed with liver metastases — cancer that has spread to the liver from other cancerous organs such as breasts, lungs, skin and brain. Available liver cancer treatments at Scripps include:
- Liver resection is a surgical procedure that removes the cancerous portion of the liver and leaves the healthy tissue intact.
- Liver transplantation involves removal of tumors and the cancerous liver. It is the most common course of treatment for patients with cirrhosis.
- Transcatheter chemoembolization (TACE) is an interventional radiology procedure to implant tiny beads containing chemotherapy directly into tumors. High-energy rays are then used to attack cancer cells.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery, including Gamma Knife, delivers a high dose of radiation to a precise location with the goal of eliminating the cancer while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses an electric current to heat and destroy cancer cells.
- Drug therapies such as sorafenib — a class of medications called kinase inhibitors — can slow or stop the progression of liver cancer in patients who are not candidates for surgery.
Scripps has the most comprehensive radiation therapy offerings in San Diego for liver cancer, including 3D-conformal radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT).
- 3-D conformal radiation therapy allows physicians to visualize a patient’s anatomy in 3-D through the use of advanced computer software to match the radiation dose to the shape of the tumor while minimizing exposure of surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
- IMRT (intensity-modulated radiation therapy) is an advanced form of radiation therapy that allows the radiation oncologist to specify the dose of radiation for the tumor while restricting the dose to surrounding healthy tissues.
Liver cancer is resistant to most chemotherapy. But a handful of chemotherapy drugs have been found to be effective for some patients. Be sure to discuss your options with your physician.