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.
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 for in-hospital services. You will usually have to pay for medicines you take at home.
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 possible. In this situation, you will be removed from the liver transplant waiting list and your doctor will discuss alternative treatment options.
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 time 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 may need a short course of antibiotics to reduce the chance of infections.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr David Yeo, Hepatobiliary/Transplant Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre and St George Hospitals, NSW; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Michael Coulson, Consumer; Dr Sam Davis, Interventional Radiologist, Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women‘s Hospital, QLD; Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Howard Liu, Radiation Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Lina Sharma, Consumer; Dr Graham Starkey, Hepato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Austin Hospital, VIC; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, ACT; Dr Michael Wallace, Western Australia Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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