NHCI Liver and Pancreas Cancer Program – Liver Cancer Care

The Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) Liver and Pancreas Cancer Program provides comprehensive hepatobiliary (liver, bile ducts and gallbladder) and pancreatic cancer care and treatment services.

In 2018, it was estimated that approximately 42,000 people in the US would be diagnosed with a cancer of the liver, bile ducts or gallbladder, according to the American Cancer Society.

Northside’s Liver & Pancreas Cancer Program is committed to providing safe and effective care to patients diagnosed with hepatobiliary cancer, from early detection to cancer treatment and survivorship.

What Is Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer is a type of hepatobiliary cancer, or cancers of the biliary system including the liver, bile ducts or gallbladder. Liver cancer is classified as either a primary cancer (cancer that originates in the liver) or a secondary cancer (metastatic liver cancer or cancer that originates in another organ and spreads to the liver).

Learn more about liver cancer.

Liver Cancer Symptoms

Many times patients with liver cancer do not experience symptoms until later stages of the disease, but in some cases, symptoms may show up sooner.

When they occur, the most common symptoms of liver cancer may include:

  • Jaundice (a yellow color in the skin, mucous membranes, or white part of the eyes)
  • Decreased appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Feeling full after a small meal
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
  • Enlarged liver or spleen

Learn more about the symptoms of liver cancer.

Liver Cancer Risk Factors

Hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC, the most common form of liver cancer, occurs more often in men than women and is usually diagnosed in people age 50 or older. In most cases, the cause of liver cancer is long-term damage and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). People with hepatitis B or C are at high risk of liver cancer, even if they do not develop cirrhosis of the liver.

Risk factors associated with liver cancer include:

  • Chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis B or hepatitis C)
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Cirrhosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Long-term exposure to aflatoxins (cancer-causing substances made by fungus)
  • Exposure to vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide (Thorotrast)
  • Long-term anabolic steroid use
  • Prolonged consumption of drinking water contaminated with naturally occurring arsenic
  • Infection with parasites
  • Smoking and tobacco use

Learn more about the risk factors for liver cancer.

As part of our comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and education, Northside offers Built To Quit, a smoking and tobacco cessation program offering resources to help individuals quit smoking and stop using other tobacco products. For additional information please call 404-780-7653 or email smokingcessation@northside.com or register for a class online.

2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (English)
2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (Spanish)

Diagnosing Liver Cancer

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute offers the following diagnostic services to diagnose liver cancer (tests used to diagnose hepatobiliary cancers vary), including:

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute offers specialized care for many different types of hepatobiliary cancers and disorders including:

Team of Liver Cancer Specialists

The strength of Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Liver and Pancreas Cancer Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated, specially trained liver cancer specialists and oncology support services personnel. Our expert medical team works together to develop a personalized cancer treatment plan for each liver cancer patient. Northside’s liver and pancreatic cancer care team offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, and leading-edge clinical research to treat hepatobiliary cancers.

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s multidisciplinary team of liver cancer specialists consists of:

  • Hepatobiliary surgeons
  • Colorectal surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Diagnostic and interventional radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Certified genetic counselors
  • Oncology nurse navigators
  • Oncology research nurses

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NHCI’s Liver and Pancreas Cancer Program holds weekly multidisciplinary conferences providing a forum for hepatobiliary cancer specialists to review radiology and pathology images and discuss the best Liver Cancer Treatment Options, including clinical trials, and agree upon an evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. By prospectively discussing liver cancer cases during conference, patients get the benefit of more than a dozen expert medical opinions

Treatment Options for Liver Cancer

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is committed to providing high quality liver cancer treatment and making access to hepatobiliary cancer care as convenient as possible. As part of a high-volume cancer center for liver surgeries, the expertise of Northside’s surgeons has resulted in surgical outcomes that meet or exceed the highest national benchmarks. Northside’s experienced hepatobiliary surgeons and surgical oncologists—including our internationally recognized medical director—provide patients with innovative surgical interventions including utilization of minimally invasive techniques.

Our accredited cancer program treats many different types of hepatobiliary cancers with the latest cancer treatments – including personalized therapies based on the cancer’s specific genetic makeup.

For more information about liver cancer treatments, please expand the content below.

Types of surgery used to treat liver cancer patients include removal of part of the liver, or partial hepactomy, or a liver transplant.

Ablation

Ablation is a treatment option that involves destroying the liver tumor and the cancer cells with high levels of heat aimed at the tumor. Northside offers ablation procedures for liver cancer including radiofrequency ablation (RFA), ethanol (alcohol) ablation and microwave ablation.

Embolization

Embolization is a treatment option that involves injecting substances to try to block or reduce the blood flow to cancer cells in the liver. Northside offers embolization procedures for liver cancer including arterial embolization, chemoembolization and radioembolization.

Chemotherapy, or “chemo” uses medication to destroy cancer cells by stopping growth. Liver cancer resists most chemotherapy drugs. Even with combinations of drugs, in most studies systemic chemotherapy has not helped patients live longer.

At Northside's infusion centers, chemotherapy is provided on an outpatient basis by registered nurses who are certified in chemotherapy administration.

Questions to ask the doctor about chemotherapy treatment

Radiation therapy, also called radiation oncology, uses high-energy X-rays to damage or kill cancer cells. NHCI offers the most common types of radiation therapy used to treat liver cancer including external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).

Learn more about our Radiation Oncology services

Immunotherapy, or biological therapy, is a treatment option that uses the body’s immune system to treat cancer. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapy that fight cancer cells directly, immunotherapy helps the immune system to fight cancer cells and may be used to treat some people with liver cancer. Checkpoint inhibitor drugs are used to treat hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer in adults.

Learn more about Northside’s Immunotherapy Program.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Each type of targeted therapy works differently, but all alter the way a cancer cell grows, divides, repairs itself or interacts with other cells. Kinase inhibitors are used to treat liver cancer by targeting specific enzymes called protein kinases that help regulate cell growth.

Questions to ask the doctor about targeted therapy treatment.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. They are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for liver cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new cancer treatment. Cancer patients who take part also help improve the way liver cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new cancer treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

Learn more about clinical trials at Northside Hospital

Learn more about NHCI Cancer Treatment Options

Liver Cancer Support & Survivorship

Ongoing support is crucial when you are facing cancer and afterward. Our oncology nurse navigators facilitate access to Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s comprehensive portfolio of cancer patient support and survivorship services to ensure each liver cancer patient receives coordinated and personalized care.

Learn more about all of the Cancer Support & Survivorship Resources available.