The cancer can affect the liver in two different ways. Most commonly through metastases, that is, the disease starts in another part of the body and the diseased cells migrate to the liver. Other times, the tumor begins in the liver itself, receiving the name of primary liver cancer.
There are different types of primary liver cancer , however, the most common is hepatocellular carcinoma, representing about 80% of cases. It is a disease that has other liver diseases as precursors , for example, cirrhosis, viral hepatitis (hepatitis C and hepatitis B), steatosis , among other conditions.
The hepatocellular carcinoma is diagnosed by liver imaging tests such as CT or MRI. An early diagnosis is essential to start treatment as quickly as possible and increase the chance of cure.
For this it is recommended that those with liver disease undergo specialized medical monitoring and imaging exams frequently. To let you know a little more about this subject, keep reading and check out the treatment options and how the best approach is defined.
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Treatment options for hepatocellular carcinoma
As explained, the chances of a cure for hepatocellular carcinoma are related to the stage of the disease. Professionals have at their disposal several techniques to apply according to the needs of each patient, however, the main one is still surgery.
Surgery to treat hepatocellular carcinoma
When the tumors or the tumor is still small, the main therapeutic measure adopted is resection surgery. The patient is operated on to remove the tumor and a portion of healthy tissue as a safety area , in order to ensure the elimination of diseased cells. The uncommitted liver can grow again and regain the size and function of the part removed during the operation.
To determine if the cancer can be removed, the specialized liver surgeon analyzes the number, size and location of the tumor within the liver, in addition to its relationship with important blood vessels, liver function and the general health of the disease carrier . In cases where the tumor is too large or the person already has a more severe cirrhosis, resection may not be the best alternative. This is because there are not enough guarantees that it will be possible to eliminate every disease safely.
Depending on the case, liver transplantation may be the best cure option for hepatocellular carcinoma . The patient receives a new liver from a deceased donor, or may receive a donation of a part of the organ from a living person. There are well-defined criteria of who can be included in a list for transplantation that has a queue time dependent on the region where you are treated.
Therapies to control cancer and relieve symptoms
Depending on the stage of the tumor and the clinical condition of the patient, surgery may not be the most viable treatment at first. It may also happen that the patient is awaiting a liver donation, or that the surgery is no longer possible. In such cases, professionals can adopt therapies that help control the disease and relieve symptoms.
The intention is to prevent it from continuing to grow or from reaching other areas of the body. In addition, they seek to minimize the discomfort caused by the disease, so that the patient has more quality of life. Some treatments are:
- Radiofrequency ablation:technique that uses electrical energy to contain the disease;
● Selective internal radiotherapy:application of radiation directly to the organ and not outside the body;
● Chemoembolization: chemotherapy is administered to the blood vessel that irrigates the tumor, so that the substances act in a more concentrated manner, without affecting the entire organism;
● Radioembolization: radiotherapy is administered to the blood vessel that irrigates the tumor, so that it acts in a more concentrated manner, without affecting the entire organism.
Chemotherapy and systemic radiotherapy do not work properly for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. The immunotherapy can be used when it is not possible to apply other techniques and the patient did not have a good response.
It is important to know that there is no prescription to be followed in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma, as it happens for other types of cancer. Therefore, the adoption of the technique varies for each patient considering the stage of the tumor, the conditions of the liver, the health of the individual and, often, even their habits.
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We emphasize that constant medical monitoring is essential, especially when you are in a risk group for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. In this way, it is possible to identify the disease early on so that it can be treated as quickly as possible, preserving the patient’s liver and life.