Liver cancer care
Allina Health provides complete care for the detection and treatment of liver cancer. We take a whole-person approach to your cancer care that focuses on your overall well-being, which include body, mind and spirit. You will be guided through your diagnosis, care and treatment by a dedicated team of health care providers.
Liver cancer is the result of cells within the liver that grow and reproduce abnormally. The most common form of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Liver cancer is difficult to detect early because there are typically no symptoms until it has reached a more advanced stage.
Liver cancer care at Allina Health
At Allina Health, we will work with you during every step of your care, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery. You will have a team of highly experienced cancer care specialists who work together seamlessly, which includes your primary care provider, medical and radiation oncologists, advanced practice providers, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and nurses who specialize in cancer care. This care will be coordinated by a nurse navigator, who will be your primary point of contact. This can help reduce your stress and makes it easier for you to get the care you need.
We also want you to be actively involved in your care. One way you can do that is through the Allina Health account, an online tool that lets you track your appointments, review your test results, communicate with your team and more.
Diagnosis of liver cancer at Allina Health
Your provider will order tests to gather the information needed to make a diagnosis of liver cancer, which may include:
- Blood tests: These blood tests can assess liver function and test for levels of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), which can be high in people with liver disease and liver cancer. Blood tests can also be used to determine your overall level of health and may include a complete blood count (CBC), a basic metabolic panel as well as testing for hepatitis B and C.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests produce pictures of specific areas in the body. Imaging tests that may be performed include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can be combined with magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) for more detailed pictures of your biliary and pancreatic ducts.
- Biopsy of the liver tissue: This is done using fine needle aspiration, which is the insertion of a needle through the abdomen into the tumor to collect a sample.
Liver cancer treatment options
At Allina Health, your health care team will work closely with you to determine the best type of cancer treatment.
The main treatment for liver cancer is surgery to remove the tumor. Other treatments that may be used with surgery, or if surgery is not an option, include:
Liver-directed therapies: These therapies may include:
- Radioembolization: placing tiny beads filled with radiation into the liver to destroy cancer cells.
- Microwave ablation: a special probe is placed into the tumor and microwave energy is passed through the probe heating the cancer cells to destroy them.
- Chemoembolization: injecting chemotherapy medicine directly into the tumor.
Systemic therapy: This treatment affects your entire body. Medicine is used to help slow the growth of cancer cells or destroy them. Types of systemic therapy include:
- Immunotherapy: This treatment uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment uses medications to target specific genes and proteins in cancer cells.
How to prepare for your first visit
Most people start by seeing their primary care provider, who will refer you to a medical oncologist if liver cancer is suspected. Your teams of experts may include a hepatologist, oncologist, navigator, interventional radiology, surgery and GI specialist.
It is recommended that you check with your health insurance provider to be sure of what is covered under your health insurance plan. Ideally, you should do this before you undergo testing and treatment so you know what is covered and what you will need to pay for on your own.
Contact your health insurance provider any time you have questions about your coverage. You can do this by calling the number on your membership card.
Cancer treatment: Allina Health Cancer Institute
Oncology nurse navigation
Integrative oncology care
Cancer rehabilitation through Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute
Reviewed by: Jill May and Jenell Gilman