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Liver Cancer Guidelines

Our partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center gives you expanded access to leading practices in liver cancer care. We deliver care that reflects research-based methods for diagnosing and treating liver cancer.

Important note about liver cancer care guidelines

Experts at Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, use liver cancer algorithms to make important decisions about your care. However, this is not the only information we use. We give careful consideration to your diagnosis, other medical problems and care preferences so you receive personalized services.

Get more information about our:

Diagnosis and evaluation

Services we use to evaluate liver cancer symptoms include:

Blood tests

Using a sample of your blood, we:

  • Evaluate how well your liver is functioning
  • Determine whether you have a liver infection that can lead to cancer (hepatitis B or C)
  • Check for high levels of proteins that occur with cancer

Pathology review

Doctors who specialize in diagnosing cancer (pathologists) evaluate the biopsy with a microscope. Pathology review helps us determine the cancer stage, meaning how advanced it is and whether it’s likely to spread.

Liver cancer surgery

Liver cancer treatment often includes surgery:

  • For early-stage cancer: We may be able to remove only the part of the liver with cancer. Or you may need a liver transplant, if you are eligible. This procedure replaces your liver with one from a healthy donor. Learn more about our Liver Transplant Program.
  • For advanced liver cancer: Your care includes a combination of local therapies (treatments that target the cancer site) and systemic treatments, including chemotherapy.

Additional liver cancer treatment options

If surgery is not possible or the cancer comes back after treatment, you may receive:

  • Immunotherapy: You receive substances that help your immune system attack cancer cells in a way that’s similar to how your body fights germs. Read more about immunotherapy.
  • Radioembolization with yttrium-90 (Y-90): Tiny seeds with a radioactive substance (Y-90) block the tumor’s blood supply.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: We access the liver through a small incision in the abdomen and insert a device delivering low levels of electrical current. The current creates scar tissue in the liver that prevents the cancer from growing.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): This treatment uses sophisticated imaging technology to deliver powerful doses of radiation to precisely the right spot. SBRT treats the cancer while preserving nearby healthy tissue.
  • Targeted therapy: You receive medications that target and disrupt gene mutations responsible for cancer growth.
  • Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE): We implant materials in blood vessels to block the tumor’s blood supply. These materials also deliver chemotherapy to destroy cancer cells in the liver.

Early detection of liver cancer

Many people face a higher risk of cancer due to permanent scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Regular imaging tests may detect the early signs of cancer if you have cirrhosis or medical problems that cause it.

These problems include:

  • Gene abnormalties (mutations) that lead to cancer
  • Hepatitis B or C
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)