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Treatment options for liver cancer


In this video Professor Derek Manas, a liver surgeon from Newcastle, introduces the treatment options for patients with liver cancer.

How is treatment considered?

There are several treatment options for HCC, some of these have the potential to cure whereas others may delay the progression (slow the rate of cancer growth).  Sometimes it may not be possible, or appropriate, to offer any treatment.

Decisions regarding treatment options are based on many factors including:

  • The general health of the person with HCC
  • The size and numbers of HCC
  • Any spread of HCC outside the liver
  • The severity of any underlying liver cirrhosis

Multidisciplinary Team Meeting


For every person with HCC, each of these factors is very carefully considered by an expert multidisciplinary team (MDT) of liver physicians, surgeons, radiologists and cancer specialists to be sure that the best treatment is chosen. 

The patients opinion is also always important.

The treatment that someone with liver cancer can have is determined by 3 things:

The 1st is how advanced a person's cancer is. We call this the stage of a cancer. We assess this by looking at the numbers of cancers a person has, how big they are and if they have spread outside a person's liver. Sometimes liver cancer spreads into the liver blood vessels called the portal veins, or into the lymph nodes, or further afield to the lungs and bones. The treatments for one small cancer in the liver, compared to larger ones that have spread, are different.


The 2nd thing that is very important is a person's liver function. Any treatment that makes a person's liver function worse can be very risky. If we ‘cure’ a cancer, but make a persons liver function worse, we can make the quality of a person's life worse and also shorten rather than prolong it.


The 3rd thing to consider is how fit a person is. Sometimes people with cancer lose weight and feel tired and weak. We don’t want to give those people treatments that make them feel sick, eat less and feel more tired and weak. Also, we need to consider a person’s previous or ongoing medical conditions. People who have had problems with their heart or lungs or kidneys, for example, might not do so well with treatments that put a strain on your heart and lungs or make kidney function worse. If you have bad arthritis, or have had a stroke in the past that affects your mobility, you don’t really want a treatment that causes diarrhoea. These are all things to think carefully about and talk through with your doctors and nurses.  

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