Options for Treatment with Liver Cancer

Last updated: November 2018

After my diagnosis of liver cancer, I had to find out what options for treatment were available. Once the MRI told the tumor board that this was definitely malignant, things moved quickly. I agreed that the Tace procedure would be best, and got it scheduled. In the meantime, we also began the process of getting listed for a transplant. There were a lot of overlapping, and confusing steps to take, but my transplant team and insurance company guided me through the logistics (specifically for hepatocellular carcinoma).

Difficult choices

Since tumors from hepatocellular carcinoma don’t go away on their own, my team decided to shrink it and try to keep it from spreading to the rest of my body. It sounds simple, but the mental and physical work was tough. We ended up using 2 types of chemotherapy over the next several months. They both worked for a while, but this tumor was stubborn.

Taking a step back from work

I took leave of absence from teaching to focus on helping my body heal. I was worn out from living with end stage liver cirrhosis. My brain fog kept me in a bit of a haze. I had some sick days to use, and other teachers donated some to get me thorough. This also allowed me to continue treatment with the same insurance. I will always be grateful to my friends and colleagues who reached out during this time of fear and confusion.

A long process

I drove to my transplant hospital for 4 days of testing. My daughter and grandkids went with me and we made a fine time of it. I had already gotten a whole body MRI and the lab drew about 30 vials of blood to test for who owns all reasons. I had pulmonary tests to see if my lungs were strong enough for the long surgery. My threadmill test also proved that my heart was good for the long haul. Each test was a marker that meant that I could move onto the next series of tests. By the time I got to bone scan, we were sure that I would be approved for a transplant. If any of the tests had shown other diseases, or weakness in my body, I could not be listed as a candidate for transplant. All of these tests would be repeated every 3 months while I was listed.

After the tumor is shrunk, many people go on without even having a recurrence of cancer. They can go away, never to come back again. The Tace and Ablation treatments are highly effective- They deliver the chemo into the liver to avoid making your whole body sick. It can be applied directly onto them tumor and surrounding area.

Understanding Your Treatment Options

There are different options available for liver cancer. I have friends who opted not to be listed for personal reasons. Others have listed, only to drop off the list after a certain period of time where they were considered to be cancer-free. Your doctor and transplant team can advise you of what is best for your particular case. Finding a team you can trust is the first step after you out are diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma.

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