Can you survive secondary liver cancer?
Although most cases of secondary cancer in the liver can’t be cured, surgery and other treatments can keep many cancers under control for months or even many years. Whatever the prognosis, palliative treatment can relieve symptoms, such as pain, to improve quality of life.
Secondary cancer occurs when cancer cells travel through the lymph nodes or blood from a primary cancerous tumor located somewhere in the body to reach the liver, forming a new secondary tumor, and this type of cancer is called metastasis .
Knowing the type of primary cancer is important in treatment as the cells of the secondary cancer are the same type as the cells of the primary cancer.
What are the cancers that may spread to reach the liver?
The following are tumors with the highest potential for metastasis to the liver:
- Cancerous tumors in the stomach or intestines.
- Cancerous tumors in the breast or ovary.
- Tumors in the lung.
- Cancerous tumors of the pancreas or neuroendocrine glands.
Symptoms of secondary liver cancer
Secondary liver cancer may be discovered by chance without obvious symptoms. The following symptoms may appear:
Ascites is the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area, either due to the arrival of cancer cells to the abdomen, or due to the lack of protein production made by the liver, which results in an imbalance of fluids.
2. Pain in the upper abdomen
It is caused by an enlarged liver and may be accompanied by pain in the right shoulder when the enlarged liver presses on the nerves below the diaphragm that connect to the right shoulder.
3. Bile duct obstruction
When the bile ducts are blocked, the bile produced by the liver returns to the bloodstream, causing jaundice. The most important symptoms are yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
4. Other symptoms
- Unexplained fatigue.
Secondary liver cancer diagnosis
The doctor may order many tests, the most important of which are the following:
Tumor features analysis
These features appear in blood tests, and they are caused by substances released by the body in response to tumor formation or by the cancer cells themselves.
Liver enzymes test
Elevated liver enzymes occur in many medical conditions, including secondary liver cancer.
These include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography , and others.
It helps determine the location of the tumor and the response to treatments.
A biopsy is done using a fine needle biopsy or a laparoscope to determine the type of cancer cells, their spread and behavior, which helps develop a treatment plan.
Biopsy genetic examination
It is one of the advanced tests, where the specialist examines the biopsy taken from the liver to find out the type of mutations in the cells to help choose the correct treatment.
With regard to diagnosing the stage of the disease and the reason for the movement of cancer cells from one place to another, secondary liver cancer is classified as a fourth stage.
Secondary Kidney Cancer Treatment
Methods of treating secondary liver cancer:
The type of chemotherapy is chosen based on the primary tumor from which the liver cells have moved, and aims to:
- Reducing the size of the tumor in the liver, making it easier to remove with surgery.
- Removing any cancer cells that were not removed after surgery.
- A palliative treatment by rapidly inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, thereby reducing symptoms and pain.
External rays used in traditional treatment are not used, but two specific types of rays are used, which are as follows:
selective internal radiation
It is used when there are many small tumors spread in the liver that cannot be removed with surgery.
These rays are used in high doses to target and destroy cancer cells.
You should be careful to avoid close physical contact with children and pregnant women for up to a week after the session.
High doses of radiation are directed at the liver very precisely. It is used when there are many small tumors in the liver.
Surgical intervention is performed if the progress of the primary tumor has been controlled and there are a number of tumors gathering in one part of the liver. Surgery is usually performed for patients with bowel cancer whose cells have moved to the liver.
4. Other methods of treatment
- Monoclonal antibody therapy
It is used to treat secondary hepatic cancer according to the type of primary cancer, for example, the use of trastuzumab if breast cancer has spread to the liver.
Hormone therapy is used if the primary cancer depends in its growth and reproduction on hormones, such as some types of breast cancer .
It is used in secondary liver cancer if the primary cancer is of specific types, such as: melanoma and lung cancer.
In which cancer cells are destroyed by cooling or heat, it is usually used if secondary hepatocellular carcinoma is caused by bowel cancer.
Chemical or radiological embolism
It stops the blood from reaching the cancerous tumor while injecting chemotherapy or radiation into the liver at the same time.