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Liver cancer that begins in the cells of the liver has four types, depending on which cells become cancerous. While liver cancer is uncommon in the United States, diagnosis is on the rise. At the UVM Medical Center, our team of gastroenterology specialists work together to diagnose & develop a personalized treatment plan for you.
Liver Cancer Care at UVM Medical Center
Liver cancer is best managed by a group of multidisciplinary specialists. At the UVM Medical Center, our team includes surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, research staff and cancer patient support specialists. This team of experts works together to fully understand your diagnosis and to create a treatment plan that is designed specifically for you.
The University of Vermont Medical Center has nurse navigators that are here to help coordinate your care and streamline your overall experience. These skilled nurses will help with scheduling initial tests and consultations and provide education regarding your diagnosis and treatment plan. They are the single point of contact for you and your family.
Our nationally recognized team provide you with comprehensive and compassionate care. The physicians, researchers and teachers in our gastroenterology department are up to date with the latest developments in their field. We use the most advanced technology available in diagnosing & treating our patients.
Liver Cancer Diagnosis
Liver cancer that begins in the cells of the liver (also called primary liver cancer) can come in four types, depending on which cells become cancerous. Knowing which type of liver cancer you have is the first step in figuring out which treatments are right for you. The types of liver cancer include:
- Hepatocellular carcinoma - the most common form of primary liver cancer which starts in the hepatocytes (the main liver cell type)
- Cholangiocarcinoma (also called bile duct cancer or biliary cancer) - cancer that begins in the small tubes (bile ducts) in the liver
- Hepatoblastoma - this liver cancer affects infants and young children.
- Angiosarcoma (also called hemangiosarcoma) - cancer that begins in the blood vessels of the liver and grows very quickly
Symptoms of liver cancer don’t typically appear until the disease is advanced. The faster a diagnosis can be made, the more likely the treatments will be successful. Some of the symptoms of liver cancer include:
- Weight loss without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- An enlarged liver
- Abdominal swelling
- Your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice)
- White, chalky stools
In order to accurately diagnose liver cancer, our team of experts use the latest techniques and technologies available. The diagnostic tests include:
- Imaging Tests
- Fine-needle aspiration - this is a way to take a tissue or cell sample for testing (called biopsy). During this procedure, a needle is inserted through your skin and into your pancreas to called the biopsy.
- Blood Tests
Treatments for Liver Cancer
Liver cancer treatment depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as other factors such as your age, health, and personal preference. Your doctors will take these items into account when recommending treatment options. At The UVM Medical Center, we use the following treatments for patients with liver cancer:
- Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy treats cancer by destroying cancer cells using different types of medication. Chemoembolization is a type of liver cancer chemotherapy treatment that injects strong anti-cancer drugs directly into the liver.
- Liver Transplant - Transplant may be an option if your liver cancer is early-stage. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removed your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a donor. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, but a small number come from living donors who donate a part of their liver.
- Radiofrequency Ablation - This procedure uses electric current to heat and destroy cancer cells.
- Partial Hepatectomy - This surgery may be an option if your liver cancer is contained to a small part of the liver and your liver is still in good function. A partial hepatectomy removes the liver cancer and a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it.
- Radiation Therapy- Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as x-rays and protons, to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy for liver cancer may involve a technique called stereotactic radiosurgery that simultaneously focuses many beams of radiation at the liver.
- Cryoablation - This procedure uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells.
- Alcohol Injection - Pure alcohol injected into the liver kills cancer cells.
- Medications - Targeted drug therapy uses medications designed to slow or stop advanced cancer for periods of time. For liver cancer, Sorafenib (Nexavar) is designed to interfere with a tumor’s ability to make new blood vessels.