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Liver Cancer

Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Research and Clinical Trials | Additional Patient Support | Other Resources

Primary liver cancer remains much less common in the United States than worldwide, where it is a leading cause of cancer death. With that said, each year some 30,000 Americans die from this disease.

The complex care needed to effectively treat liver cancer requires multidisciplinary expertise. NorthShore draws from the diverse experience of nationally renowned physicians and surgeons who see large numbers of patients with various forms of this disease, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) and tumors that have spread to the liver. The Kellogg Cancer Center team is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, collaborative care.

Newly diagnosed patients have the added support of a specialized oncology nurse navigator to guide them through their liver cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Liver Cancer Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis

The appearance of few symptoms makes liver cancer challenging to diagnose in its early stages. The primary risk factors for liver cancer are chronic hepatitis B or C virus infection and cirrhosis of the liver, or a family history of the disease. NorthShore offers a dedicated outpatient program for the long-term care of patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. As part of this program, patients are screened for hepatocellular cancer on a regular basis (typically, twice annually), using ultrasound and blood tests. Using this proactive approach, liver cancer can often be detected earlier when a cure is possible.

At its more advanced stages, the disease may manifest itself in the form of liver cancer symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting and jaundice.

To establish the liver cancer diagnosis, a physician will perform a physical exam as well as blood tests. Imaging tests may also be recommended, including CT scan, ultrasound or angiogram. These imaging tests help doctors view tumors on the liver.

Removal of a tumor sample for biopsy may also be recommended. NorthShore's expert pathology department ensures that a majority of tests and novel diagnostics are completed in-house. Onsite processing provides swift results, allowing for treatment to begin as early as possible.

Personalized Liver Cancer Treatment

Fellowship-trained hepato-pancreaticobiliary surgeons offer skill in complex procedures for liver cancer. NorthShore is among a few select institutions using minimally invasive strategies for liver resections. Our interventional radiology team uses the latest diagnostic and therapeutic technology, including therapeutic interventions like embolization of tumor vasculature, radiofrequency ablation and Yttrium-90 perfusion. These minimally invasive liver cancer treatments often replace more traditional invasive therapies.

Our multidisciplinary team meets regularly in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss your case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. For liver cancer, your team may include your medical oncologistsurgeon, interventional gastroenterologist, hepatologist, radiation oncologist, oncology nurse, geneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for your care.

NorthShore's Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy Program, brings additional specialized expertise to our patients. This sophisticated technology is becoming more important in helping to diagnose, precisely stage and treat benign and malignant tumors in the liver and GI tract.

Our comprehensive Pancreaticobiliary and Liver Disease Program receives referrals from throughout the extended region and well beyond, and all patients are evaluated in a multidisciplinary clinic where the physicians are able to review each case in real time and to develop a joint proposal for therapy.

Liver transplantation has emerged as an important treatment option for many patients with early-stage liver cancer. NorthShore partners with the University of Chicago to evaluate patients requiring solid organ transplants.

Research and Clinical Trials

For patients diagnosed with liver cancer, NorthShore participates in a variety of national and regional clinical trials.

Our extensive tumor bank supports both tumor profiling and the effort by NorthShore’s Center for Molecular Medicine to develop an early warning system for liver cancer diagnosis. We also work with multiple national cancer co-operative groups such as Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

Other Resources

The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation is an important resource for research, education and awareness about bile duct cancer.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.