The liver is a vital organ responsible for eliminating toxic substances and filtering the blood in conjunction with the kidneys. It also serves additional roles as a means of sugar storage and producer of digestive enzymes. The liver may be the primary source of cancer, known as hepatocellular carcinoma or primary liver cancer, but it is also a frequent target of cancer metastasis originating in other organs. This is called secondary liver cancer or liver metastasis. At Sheba, we offer several advanced liver cancer treatment options.
Although the causes of all liver cancer are not fully known, there are some definite risk factors. These include viral hepatitis infections, particularly hepatitis B and C, obesity, diabetes, heavy alcohol use, and hematochromatosis, an iron storage disease. Many of these risk factors can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, which is itself a risk factor for primary liver cancer.
Liver tumors are classified by the kind of cells that compose them and the extent of the disease throughout the body. Precise classification is important in that it helps physicians to plan appropriate treatment and manage symptoms. The stages of primary liver cancer are:
This is when there is a single, small tumor in the liver which has not spread.
The tumor is beginning to spread and has infiltrated blood vessels or adjacent lymph nodes and organs.
The tumor is larger in size and/or has begun to cause damage to the liver’s blood vessels.
Metastasis has occurred. The tumor has spread to distant organs elsewhere in the body via the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
Some signs and symptoms of liver cancer include:
- Abdominal pain and/or bloating and swelling, particularly right-sided
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice, a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, pale stools, and dark urine
Several tests are employed as part of our liver cancer treatment options, to confirm the presence of liver cancer. A simple physical exam by an experienced physician can detect abdominal signs of cancer. This is typically accompanied by blood tests to look for tumor markers as well as CT, ultrasound, and/or MRI scans for definitive imaging. A liver biopsy can also be used in the diagnosis of hepatocellular cancer.
Liver Cancer Treatment Options in Israel
Sheba Medical Center is on the cutting edge of liver cancer treatment and offers many forms of therapy. For smaller tumors in soft tissue, without the presence of cirrhosis, radiofrequency ablation may be appropriate. In this treatment, radio waves are used to “burn” the tumor. Alcohol and other chemicals may also be injected into larger tumors to achieve the same effect.
Liver transplant is another option for some patients with liver cancer. This involves assessment of the patient’s specific case and condition and placement on a national transplant waiting list.
Several liver cancer treatment options are at the disposal of patients with larger tumors or multiple liver tumors, transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) may be offered. TACE involves the injection of chemotherapy drugs and embolic agents into the hepatic artery. The embolization works to decrease tumor size by restricting the tumor’s blood supply. Similarly, selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) can be used to deliver tiny radioactive beads directly to a liver tumor via a catheter.
Biologic drugs may be used in situations where the cancer has become metastatic and moved to other organs. Whatever treatments are used, Sheba Medical Center maintains our commitment to world class medicine with a personal touch by providing focused patient care with a caring and understanding multidisciplinary team.
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