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Liver Cancer

diagnosis · treatment · research

What liver cancer is

Only cancers that originate in the liver are called liver cancer. There is more than one type of liver cancer, the most common being hepatocarcinoma.

The liver is composed mainly of cells called hepatocytes. There are also other cells, such as those that cover the blood vessels or those that cover the small ducts through which bile circulates, called bile ducts.

Our body is made up of a set of organs, which in turn are made up of cells that divide regularly in order to replace those that have aged or died, thereby maintaining the integrity and proper functioning of the various organs.

This process is regulated by a series of mechanisms that signal to the cell when to start dividing and when to remain stable. When any of these control mechanisms is disturbed, cell proliferation gets out of control and cancer develops. Depending on the type of cell that is altered, several types of tumours can develop in the liver, which will have a different cause, treatment and prognosis.

Liver cancer in the early stages usually has no symptoms. The most common symptoms are loss of weight and appetite, vomiting, weakness, abdominal swelling, pain in the upper abdomen, jaundice and whitish stools.

Factors that increase the possibility of developing liver cancer include chronic infection whit hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus, cirrhosis, hereditary liver diseases (hemochromatosis and Wilson´s disease), diabetes and excessive alcohol cosumption, among others.

Treatment for liver cancer depends on the extend of the cancer. They may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted treatments, radiation therapy or a combination of these.

Treatment of liver cancer at the IVO

IVO Digestive Tumours Committee

The Digestive Tumours Committee is made up of a multidisciplinary team of expert professionals.

General and Digestive Surgery Service

The General and Digestive Surgery Service deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer.

Medical Oncology Service

The Service's team of professionals accompanies cancer patients throughout the whole disease process.

Clinical trials

The current way we have of advancing and improving cancer treatment is through what we call "clinical trials".

A clinical trial is a research study carried out on people with the aim of learning more about how the body reacts to certain treatments. These trials generally seek to find drugs that are more effective than the current best therapeutic option for patients, or that have similar efficacy but a better toxicity profile.

Bearing in mind that almost all currently available treatments are the result of clinical research, the importance of clinical trials is obvious.

The IVO has a clinical trials unit for all types of tumours and participates in phase 1-3 studies as well as other types of studies.

Living with liver cancer

coping with the diagnosis and receiving treatment and psychological support

Whether you receive the news of an initial diagnosis of cancer or a relapse, coping with cancer can be emotionally overwhelming. Each person has their own way of coping with a liver cancer diagnosis, but there are some recommendations that can help you through this process:

  • Maintain communication and the company of family and friends, the people closest to the patient, who can provide a support network throughout the process
  • Talk to other people who have survived cancer or who are in the same situation. There are many local and national associations and support groups. The Spanish Association Against Cancer (Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer) is perhaps the best-known one.
  • Inform yourself in order to make the best decisions about treatment and medical professionals.

Early Diagnosis

Nuclear Medicine


Radiation Therapy