Health A-Z

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The type of treatment depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer, your age and your general health.

Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are potential treatment options. Often, a combination of all three is used.

A primary liver cancer that has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs can often be surgically removed. However, only a small percentage of liver cancers are found in this early stage.

For most cases of liver cancer, it is not possible to remove the entire tumor. Or, the cancer has spread throughout much of the liver or to distant sites. There are no standard treatments for liver cancer in these stages. For a few cases, a liver transplant may be considered.

Newer chemotherapy medications have improved the outlook for some patients with liver cancer. Other drugs, which decrease the blood supply that tumors need to grow, have also been shown to be helpful.

In many cases, liver cancer cannot be cured. Instead, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms of the cancer or keeping the cancer from growing, spreading or returning.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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