Cancers that start in the liver are called primary liver cancers. Most of the time, cancer found in the liver did not start there, but spread - or metastasized - from somewhere else in the body. Common sites include the colon, rectum, stomach and breast. Primary liver cancer is more commonly found in men than women. Your risk for developing primary liver cancer increases if you have cirrhosis of the liver, long-term infection with Hepatitis B or C, heavy alcohol use, obesity or smoking.
Liver cancer is often hard to detect because signs and symptoms do not usually appear until the cancer is in its later stages. At this time, there are no widely recommended screening tests that can detect liver cancer early.
CoxHealth offers several types of advanced treatment for liver cancer. Treatment options vary depending on a variety of factors including how big the tumor is and where it is located in the liver.
Liver cancer can be treated with surgery if it is found early enough so that the entire tumor can be removed, leaving enough healthy liver behind.
When surgery is not an option, ablation may be used to treat liver cancer. A small, needle-like probe is inserted into the tumor to destroy cancer cells. CoxHealth offers two types of ablation. This procedure can be done in the operating room or in radiology:
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
RFA uses high-energy radio waves that heat the tumor and destroy cancer cells.
Microwave ablation is similar to RFA, but uses microwaves instead of radio waves.
Embolization blocks or reduces the blood flow to cancer cells in the liver. In radioemoblization, small radioactive beads, known as microspheres, are injected into the hepatic artery. The beads give off radiation to the tumor site for several days, without damaging healthy tissue. Treatment is administered by an interventional radiologist as an outpatient procedure.
Ytrium-90, or Y-90, is a relatively new radioembolization treatment. It was first brought to the Ozarks by CoxHealth in 2013. Y-90 offers patients extended and improved quality of life with fewer side effects when compared to standard liver cancer treatment. For a small number of patients, treatment may cause the tumor to shrink enough that surgical removal becomes a treatment option.
During chemoembolization, otherwise known as trans-arterial chemoembolization (TACE), tiny beads that give off chemotherapy are injected into the tumor. The chemotherapy levels delivered to the tumor far exceed those that would be considered safe if the chemotherapy was given systemically.