Liver cancer awareness: What you should know

October 27, 2015 | by Valerie Howard

Although liver cancer is considered relatively rare, striking an estimated 33,000 Americans each year — mostly men over the age of 45 — it is extremely challenging to treat if not caught early.

At City of Hope, expert researchers and doctors such as Laleh Melstrom, M.D., M.S., are working tirelessly to advance liver cancer research and treatment, in order to improve early detection and survival rates.

Here, Melstrom gives us an update on the latest advancements in liver cancer research, and shares the three things she wishes more patients knew about the disease.

How have diagnosis and treatment for liver cancer changed or advanced in recent years?

The greatest recent advancements have been the broad array of liver-directed therapy and the development of precision medicine.

Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer in adults), who are not candidates for transplantation, often succumb to liver failure. Although controlling the disease burden in the liver can extended survival, systemic therapy for hepatocellular cancer has limited benefits. At City of Hope, we offer the full breadth of liver-directed therapies which include- bland embolization, chemoembolization, radioembolization and radiation.  These are outpatient procedures that allow patients to resume their quality of life.

What are three things you wish more people knew about liver cancer?

1.  Liver cancer or tumors in the liver don’t only originate from other sites, but can arise from the liver itself. These are often associated with hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and more and more, are associated with what’s called “NASH” (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), which can be associated with diabetes and obesity.

2.  The liver itself is the only abdominal organ in the body that can regenerate. That means up to 80 percent of a healthy liver can be removed, and will eventually grow back.

3.  Now more than ever before, there is hope. New therapies are being developed, and a team approach from experts in various medical disciplines will give patients the greatest opportunities for aggressive, innovative and quality care.

What message do you have for someone who has been recently diagnosed with liver cancer?

If you or a family member is diagnosed with liver cancer, the most important determinant of the outcome, beyond the biology of the tumor, is the expertise of your care. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis and then creating a plan of care with the help of experts from different disciplines (surgery, medical oncology, interventional radiology and radiation oncology) will allow for the best outcomes.

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Learn more about our Liver Cancer Program and our unique patient experience. If you have been diagnosed with liver cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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