Liver tumors and cancer

Liver cancer overview

If you’ve recently found out you have liver cancer, you are probably feeling a range of emotions and have many questions. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, we understand. We are here to help you find answers and offer you expert, compassionate care. 

Each year, our world-class doctors care for more patients with liver cancer than anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest. Together, they discuss patient cases, combining their deep clinical expertise in liver, gallbladder, bile duct and related cancers to bring the best treatments to our patients.

Fred Hutch: A Leader in Liver Cancer Treatment

When most patients come to Fred Hutch, they will be seen at the Liver Tumor Clinic at UW Medical Center – Montlake, which offers the full range of care you may need. Some patients who have advanced disease will be seen directly in our medical oncology department. 

We will talk with you about clinical trial options as well as systemic therapies that might help you. Whatever type of treatment is right for you, you will receive it from a Fred Hutch specialist who focuses exclusively on liver care. 

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease.
Center for Advanced Minimally Invasive Liver Oncologic Therapy (CAMILOT)

The Center for Advanced Minimally Invasive Liver Oncologic Therapy at UW Medical Center – Montlake (CAMILOT) is dedicated to finding the most advanced minimally invasive treatment options for liver cancer patients whenever possible. 

CAMILOT, established in 1998, is the first center of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Today, it has become one of the most respected multidisciplinary clinics devoted to the treatment of liver tumors in the United States. 

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Liver transplant

For some situations, liver transplant is standard therapy. Fred Hutch is designed to help all patients with liver cancer, no matter what type of treatment you may need. If you need a liver transplant, you will be treated at the UW Medical Center, which has a Liver Transplant Program. If you are waiting for a transplant, you may have other treatments at Fred Hutch.

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Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies.

Your First Appointment

From the first time you come to see us, your liver team will begin getting to know you and your family. What are your questions? What are your concerns?  

At your first appointment at Fred Hutch, your doctor will explain your disease and the steps needed to treat you. Your doctor will also tell you about any tests we will need to do in order to learn more information that will help plan your care. We know you have many questions, and from this point on, we will start replacing unknowns with answers.

Care at Fred Hutch

The safest, most effective and most widely accepted therapies for cancer are known as the “standard of care.” For many patients, these therapies will be a large part of their treatment. At Fred Hutch, we provide all standard therapies for liver cancer. We know how to choose the right ones for you and how to deliver them to give you the best chance at a full recovery.

Our doctors and researchers are always asking how we can make liver cancer treatments more effective and reduce side effects as much as possible. This is why we opened our Center for Advanced Minimally Invasive Liver Oncologic Therapy (CAMILOT), the first center of its kind in our region. It’s also why we conduct clinical trials. Through CAMILOT and these trials, we can offer you therapies that aren’t available everywhere. A therapy that is going through trials today may become the new standard tomorrow. 

Along with treating your cancer, a group of world-class professionals is here to support you. This team includes nurses, registered dietitians, physical therapists, social workers and psychologists. We also include supportive care services for your physical, mental and emotional well-being.  
 

Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Standard care A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proven effectiveness based on past studies.

Treatment

The treatment you get will depend on many things, like the condition of your liver; the size, location and number of tumors you have; and if the cancer has spread outside your liver. Other things matter, too, like your age and overall health. 

Our liver experts put all this information together, then use their knowledge and insights to recommend the best treatment plan for you. 

For some people with liver cancer, a surgery called partial hepatectomy is the best treatment. Someone else might need a liver transplant. If your cancer can’t be operated on, or if it has spread outside your liver, you might get other treatments, such as thermal ablation, irreversible electroporation, chemoembolization, radioembolization, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or a combination of treatments.

At the Liver Tumor Clinic, our doctors will come together to discuss your condition and design a treatment plan that is unique to you.

Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Treatment plan A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A detailed plan with information about a patient’s disease, the goal of treatment, the treatment options for the disease and the possible side effects and expected length of treatment. A treatment plan may also include information about how much the treatment is likely to cost and about regular follow-up care after treatment ends. Ablation Treatment to remove or destroy all or part of a cancer; also used to remove or stop organ function. Besides surgery and drugs, other types of ablation include extreme heat, freezing and chemicals.

Treatment that removes or destroys all or part of a cancer; can also be used to remove or stop the function of an organ. For example, removing the ovaries or testicles or taking medicines that cause them to stop making their hormones would be called ablation. Besides surgery and drug treatment, other ways of ablating body tissues and tumors include extreme heat, freezing and chemicals.

Chemoembolization A procedure in which the blood supply to a tumor is blocked after anticancer drugs are given in blood vessels near the tumor.

A procedure in which the blood supply to a tumor is blocked after anticancer drugs are given in blood vessels near the tumor. Sometimes, the anticancer drugs are attached to small beads that are injected into an artery that feeds the tumor. The beads block blood flow to the tumor as they release the drug. This allows a higher amount of drug to reach the tumor for a longer period of time, which may kill more cancer cells. It also causes fewer side effects because very little of the drug reaches other parts of the body. Chemoembolization is used to treat liver cancer. Also called TACE and transarterial chemoembolization.

Radioembolization A type of radiation therapy for liver cancer that uses a thin, flexible tube to inject tiny radioactive beads into the main blood vessel that carries blood to the liver.

A type of radiation therapy used to treat liver cancer or cancer that has spread to the liver. A thin, flexible tube is used to inject tiny beads that hold the radioactive substance, yttrium Y 90, into the main blood vessel that carries blood to the liver. The beads collect in the tumor and in blood vessels near the tumor, and the yttrium Y 90 gives off radiation. This destroys the blood vessels that the tumor needs to grow and kills the cancer cells. Radioembolization is a type of internal radiation therapy.

“Fred Hutch multidisciplinary tumor boards are truly collaborative environments where we discuss the best evidence-based treatments and learn from each other. This allows for less biased, more balanced and — most importantly — patient-centered recommendations based on the most recent data and expert opinions.”
— James O. Park, MD, FACS, liver cancer surgeon, Fred Hutch

For Caregivers

Caregiver icon

When someone close to you is diagnosed with liver cancer, you might step into the role of caregiver. Being a caregiver can mean many things, from lending a hand with daily living tasks to helping with medical decisions. It can also mean dealing with your own emotions and stress. 

At Fred Hutch, caregivers are valuable members of a patient’s care team. We see every day that your presence and your support make a difference. We know that what your friend or family member is going through affects you, too.

Part of our mission is to help you take care of yourself. Caring for yourself is good for your physical, mental and emotional health. It also helps you give your best to your loved one. Our social workers, Spiritual Health team and Patient and Family Resource Center staff are here to help support you.

Caregiver A person who gives care to people who need help, such as children, older people or patients who have chronic illnesses or disabilities. A person who gives care to people who need help taking care of themselves, such as children, older people or patients who have chronic illnesses or disabilities. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers or members of the clergy. They may give care at home, in a hospital or in another health care setting.

Other Resources

Care team
Care team

At Fred Hutch, a team of dedicated people surrounds you and your family to give you the highest level of care and support. You are the most important person on your care team. Our patients are at the center of everything we do.

Research
Research

Biorepository
After a tumor has been removed and studied, part of the tissue is saved in a storage bank called a biorepository. The biorepository can be used by scientists who are looking for new approaches and cures for cancer. At Fred Hutch, we have many types of biorepositories, which help us do research for groundbreaking trials and new therapies. 

Resources
Resources

There are many resources for learning about your disease, as well as organizations that provide support. Health educators at the Fred Hutch Patient and Family Resource Center have made a list of trusted sources to help you get started.