The liver, one of the largest organs of the body, has many important functions that keep a person healthy. It removes harmful material from the blood, produces enzymes and bile that help digest food and converts food into substances needed for life and growth.
How can cancer involve the liver?
There are two ways in which cancer can involve the liver. The cancer can arise from the liver itself (primary liver cancer) or it can spread to the liver from a primary tumour at another site (secondary, or metastatic, cancer).
In the UK, secondary liver cancer is about 28 times more common than primary liver cancer. Each year there are about 70,000 patients in the UK with secondary liver cancer and about 2,500 with primary liver cancer.
Liver cancer can arise in two ways:
· Primary liver cancer (most commonly hepatocellular carcinoma) originates in the liver.
· Metastatic liver cancer results from the spread (metastasis) of cancer from other areas of the body.
What is primary liver cancer?
Primary liver cancer starts in the cells, bile ducts, blood vessels or connective tissue of the liver. It’s not very common. Primary liver cancer is different from cancer that started somewhere else in the body and spread to the liver (called secondary liver cancer or metastatic liver cancer).
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It’s found in the upper part of the abdomen on the right-hand side and is protected by the lower ribs. The liver has two parts, called lobes – the right lobe and the smaller left lobe.
Your liver is a football-sized organ that sits in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath your diaphragm and above your stomach. Your liver processes most of the nutrients absorbed from your small intestine and determines how much sugar (glucose), protein and fat enter your bloodstream. It also manufactures blood-clotting substances and certain proteins. Your liver performs a vital detoxifying function by removing drugs, alcohol and other harmful substances from your bloodstream.
What are the main treatments for liver cancer? Surgery for primary liver cancer.
Surgery for liver cancer is the best treatment we have if the cancer hasn’t spread.
There are two main options
· A liver transplant
· Surgery to remove the cancer from your liver
Hepatocellular cancer (HCC) is more likely to develop in people with chronic cirrhosis. Your specialist may suggest a liver transplant if you have cirrhosis of the liver because of previous liver disease, infection with a hepatitis virus or from drinking alcohol.
Your specialist may suggest one of the following treatments to help control liver cancer
· Percutaneous ethanol injection
· Radiofrequency ablation
· Cryosurgery or cryotherapy
New Treatment Targets Liver Cancer
In the interventional radiology suite, physicians use Selective Internal Radiation Therapy to treat patients with inoperable liver cancer.
Physicians at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center are performing a new treatment for inoperable liver cancer known as Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT). SIRT is a non-surgical outpatient therapy that uses microscopic radioactive spheres, called SIR-Spheres®, to deliver radiation directly to the site of the liver tumors.