Liver cancer treatment overview

Treatment will depend on whether you have primary liver cancer or secondary cancer in the liver.

The most common types of treatment for liver cancer are surgery, tumour ablation, chemotherapy, biological therapy, selected internal radiation therapy, and endoscopic stent placement.

Palliative treatment

Palliative treatment helps improve people’s quality of life by alleviating symptoms of cancer, without trying to cure the disease.

Often treatment is concerned with pain relief and stopping the spread of cancer, but it can also involve the management of other physical and emotional symptoms. Treatment may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, endoscopic stent placement or medications.

Which health professionals will I see?

Your general practitioner (GP) will arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms.

If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a gastroenterologist (a specialist doctor) who will arrange further tests and advise you about treatment options.

You will be cared for by a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your treatment. This is called a multidisciplinary team. The team may include:

  • hepatobiliary surgeon – a surgeon who specialises in surgery of the liver and surrounding organs
  • gastroenterologist – a specialist in diseases of the digestive system
  • medical oncologist – plans and administers chemotherapy
  • radiation oncologist – plans and administers radiotherapy
  • hepatologist – a gastroenterologist who has further specialised in liver and gall bladder disease
  • cancer nurse coordinators and nurses – give you the course of treatment and support and assist you through all stages of your treatment
  • social worker, physiotherapists, occupational therapist – link you to support services and help you to resume normal activities
  • dietitian – recommends an eating plan for you to follow while you are in treatment and recovery
  • palliative care team – assists you with symptom management and emotional support for you and your family.
This information was last reviewed in Content updated May 2012

This information has been reviewed by: Dr Benjamin Thomson, Hepato-pancreato-biliary Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Joyce Bonello, Cancer Care Coordinator – GIT, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Carol Cameron, Cancer Nurse Coordinator Upper GI, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network; Karen Hall, Clinical Nurse Cancer Services Division, Flinders Medical Centre, and Cancer Council Helpline Nurse, SA; Robyn Hartley, Consumer; Mamta Porwal, Project Coordinator, B Positive Project, Cancer Council NSW; Chris Rivett, Clinical Nurse Oncology, Western Hospital, and Cancer Council Helpline Nurse, SA; and Dr Kellee Slater, Hepatobiliary, General and Liver Transplant Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.

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