Surgery is generally the first-line treatment for liver cancer, although radiation therapy, chemotherapy, thermal ablation and percutaneous ethanol injections are also sometimes used, depending on the particular patient, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The type of treatment recommended depends on whether the cancer has moved beyond the liver, how far it has spread beyond its point of origin, the patient's particular preferences and the overall health status of the patient.
Removing the tumor is considered the most successful disease-directed treatment, notes the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Surgery is generally the most successful in cancers that are smaller than 5 centimeters and generally involves removing part of the liver, although liver transplant is also an option for some patients.
Surgery may be used on its own or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These two therapies may also be used on their own or together without surgery. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells, typically by affecting the cancer's ability to divide and grow. Radiation makes use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
Thermal ablation is a type of microwave therapy that employs the use of heat to eradicate cancer cells. The procedure may be undertaken while the patient is sedated or it can also be given via the skin using a laparoscope.