Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Secondary Liver Cancer

Secondary Liver Cancer and Surgical Skill

Consultant Liver Surgeon, Mr Robert Hutchins from Barts & The London Hospitals says, “The key to successful liver surgery is the complete removal of all tumours leaving behind sufficient liver tissue to keep vital functions of the body operational.” However, despite the skills of the surgeon the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body, so the question is – what should be done in these circumstances, and what are the options?

What is Secondary Liver Cancer? And what are the surgical and non-surgical treatment options?

Especially in the two years following the successful treatment of a primary liver cancer unfortunately many patients will go on to develop secondarycancer in other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs and liver. Sometimes the disease will have already spread by the time that the cancer is diagnosed. The development of secondary disease does not reflect any failure on behalf of surgical treatment or subsequent chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments.

Liver treatment is most often surgical but non-surgical treatments are constantly being developed. The survival benefit of these new treatments is not as clear as with surgical removal of the tumour but they are becoming more commonly employed and may be given in conjunction with liver surgery.

Examples of the newer technologies for treating liver secondary cancer include:

Radiofrequency Ablation - Ablation techniques offer heat or cold treatment to physically destroy tumours once needles to deliver the temperature change have been passed into the tumour

Microwave Ablation - uses heat from microwave energy to destroy cancer cells

HIFU - very high frequency ultrasound to destroy tumours from outside the body

Cyberknife - very high dose, very accurately localised radiation therapy

SIRTEX - utilises tiny beads emitting radiation that are passed into the blood supply of tumours in the liver.

All of these technologies avoid surgery, but small procedures may be needed and in some cases a general anaesthetic.

Liver Units in the UK were established to allow surgeons to gain the required specific expertise. Due to the difficult complex procedures required, the surgeon’s skill and experience is the biggest factor affecting a successful outcome. The mortality from liver surgery for bowel cancer secondaries should be  less than 3%. In many UK centres it is less than 1%. The morbidity or rate of complications is about 20%. This includes mild liver failure, leak of bile from the cut surface of the liver (about 5%), infections of the wound, chest and abdominal cavity, bleeding or the general risks of anaesthesia especially on the heart and lungs.

Relating to the abdomen, which is the region of the body between the chest and the pelvis. Full medical glossary
A medication that reduces sensation. Full medical glossary
A fluid produced by the liver, which helps the fat ingested in food to combine with the digestive juices in the gut. Full medical glossary
A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
The use of chemical substances to treat disease, particularly cancer. Full medical glossary
A condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for high intensity focused ultrasound, a relatively new method for treating cancer using focused ultrasound waves. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
A large abdominal organ that has many important roles including the production of bile and clotting factors, detoxification, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Full medical glossary
Energy in the form of waves or particles, including radio waves, X-rays and gamma rays. Full medical glossary
The treatment of disease using radiation. Full medical glossary
A tumour or abnormal swelling that results from the spread of another malignant (uncontrolled) tumour to a distant part of the body. Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
An abnormal swelling. Full medical glossary
A diagnostic method in which very high frequency sound waves are passed into the body and the reflective echoes analysed to build a picture of the internal organs – or of the foetus in the uterus. Full medical glossary