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Sunday, May 4, 2008

New treatments for secondary liver cancer

The following treatments are still being researched to see how they can be used to treat secondary liver cancer in the most effective way. They are only available in some specialist hospitals. If your doctor feels that any of these treatments may be helpful in your situation they can refer you to a specialist hospital that carries out the treatments. You may have to travel a long way to the specialist hospital. These treatments may sometimes be used in combination with standard treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Laser or radiofrequency (thermal) ablation

This treatment uses a laser or radiowaves (microwaves) to destroy the cancer cells by heating them to high temperatures. A sedative drug is given to make the person feel drowsy and a local anaesthetic used to numb the skin of the abdomen. A fine needle is then inserted through the skin over the liver and into the centre of the tumour. Powerful laser light or radiowaves are then passed through the needle and into the tumour, which heats the cancer cells and destroys them.

This technique takes about 10-15 minutes and can be used to treat tumours up to 5 cm in diameter. Usually the person is able to go home a few hours after the treatment has been given.


In cryotherapy treatment a device called a cryoprobe is inserted into the centre of the tumour during an operation. Liquid nitrogen is then passed through the probe. This freezes the surrounding area and destroys the cancer cells. Sometimes the area is thawed for 10-15 minutes and then frozen again.

Cryotherapy is only suitable for liver tumours which are smaller than 4 cm in diameter. The procedure takes about 30-60 minutes and usually involves a short stay in an intensive care unit and then a couple of days stay in the specialist liver treatment ward.

Sometimes chemotherapy may be given after the cryosurgery.

Hepatic artery chemoembolisation

Whilst using x-ray pictures, a thin plastic tube is placed into a blood vessel in the groin and this is passed upwards until the tip is in position in the artery that takes blood to the liver. A chemotherapy drug mixed with an oily substance is then injected into the liver and the tube is removed.

The oily substance creates blood clots in the blood vessels which carry blood to the tumour. This stops oxygen and nutrients getting to the tumour and the chemotherapy stays in the tumour in high concentrations, which can kill some of the cells and shrink the tumour. How long the procedure takes, and the side effects that it causes, will be determined by the type of chemotherapy used. Some people may temporarily have pain, may feel sick or be sick, and have a high temperature. Usually, chemoembolisation is carried out under a local anaesthetic.

Alcohol treatment

Sterile alcohol is used to destroy the cancer cells. The technique is only suitable for tumours less than 4-5 cm in size. A small needle is inserted into the liver tumour under local anaesthetic. The alcohol is then injected directly into the tumour. Alcohol treatment is only effective if there is one small tumour in the liver or a small number of separate tumours. The injection can be painful and painkillers are given afterwards for a time. Some people have a feeling of being drunk for 10-15 minutes afterwards.

You may be kept in hospital for a few hours after your treatment in case you have any bleeding or pain. This treatment can be repeated some time later if necessary.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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