Cancer of the liver, which may be primary or secondary cancer, involves an uncontrolled growth of cells. Primary cancer arises within the liver and in its early stages exists only in the liver. Secondary liver cancer, also called metastatic cancer, originates in another organ, such as the colon, stomach, pancreas or breast and then spreads to the liver. Because secondary cancer is present in at least two organs, the treatment possibilities are more limited than for primary liver cancer.

Learn more about liver cancer and how it's treated from Dr. Karen Krok, a hepatologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Treatment

At Penn State Cancer Institute, our specialists provide personalized treatment for liver cancer and diseases. We offer advanced treatments, clinical trials and support groups to give you the best care.

We offer the following treatments for liver cancer:

  • Tumor ablation. A small needle is placed through the skin to target the liver tumor. High-frequency electrical currents or alcohol flows through the needle. The heat from these currents or the alcohol helps destroy liver cancer cells. 
  • Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE). This is a nonsurgical procedure. Your doctor will use an X-ray as he or she guides a catheter (long flexible tube) in delivering chemotherapy and other medications into blood vessels that feed the tumor. 
  • Radioactive bead embolic therapy. During this minimally invasive procedure, a doctor will place tiny beads filled with radioactive materials into the blood vessels attached to a tumor. They provide radiation therapy from inside the body. 
  • External beam radiation or stereotactic body radiotherapy. This is a type of radiation therapy for locally advanced liver cancer.  The radiation precisely targets liver tumors, reducing exposure to other parts of the body. 
  • Complex and minimally invasive hepatobiliary surgery. This means surgery on the liver, bile duct, gallbladder or pancreas. Surgery can be used to treat: 
    • Bile duct injuries
    • Biliary obstruction
    • Benign and malignant tumors of the liver and biliary system

Meet the Team

Prevention and Screening

You can reduce your risk for liver cancer by: 

  • Drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Preventing hepatitis or seeking treatment if you are infected
  • Seeking treatment for hereditary diseases that cause liver cirrhosis

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Cancer of the liver, which may be primary or secondary cancer, involves an uncontrolled growth of cells.

Symptoms

Liver cancer symptoms include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in the color of urine or stool
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis

We offer the following tests to screen for liver cancer:

  • Biopsy to test liver tissue for cancer cells 
  • Blood tests and tumor markers
  • Imaging technologies such as CT, MRI or PET scans
  • Interventional endoscopic procedures. Your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light attached into the mouth or anus in order to see inside your body and make a diagnosis. These include procedures such as:
    • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
    • Endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS)
    • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other parents and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered

Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

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