A transplant involves removing the whole liver and replacing it with a healthy liver from another person (a donor). This treatment is effective for HCC, but it is generally used only in people with a single tumour or several small tumours. It is not usually recommended for cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).
To be considered for a liver transplant, you need to be reasonably fit, not smoke or take illegal drugs, and have stopped drinking alcohol for at least six months. Currently, all liver transplants in Australia are performed in public hospitals and there is no cost to you.
Donor livers are scarce and waiting for a suitable liver may take many months. During this time, the cancer may continue to grow. As a result, most people have tumour ablation or TACE to control the cancer while they wait for a donor.
Unfortunately, in some people the cancer progresses despite treatment and a liver transplant will no longer be helpful. In this situation, you will be removed from the liver transplant waiting list and alternative treatment options will be discussed.
Recovering from a transplant − If you have a liver transplant, you will spend up to three weeks in hospital. It may take 3–6 months to recover and it will probably take a while to regain your energy.
You will be given drugs called immunosuppressants to stop the body rejecting the new liver. These need to be taken for the rest of your life. You will also have antibiotics to reduce the chance of infections.