Liver cancer treatment

Liver cancer treatment

At the Hume-Lee Transplant Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, our doctors rely on their extensive experience and advanced expertise to deliver personalized care for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma.

Worldwide, hepatocellular carcinoma — also known as primary liver cancer — is one of the top two causes of all cancer deaths. Hepatocellular carcinoma is curable by surgery or liver transplantation only if the tumor is small.

In cases where the tumor is large or has spread beyond the liver, the multimodal therapy for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma is an aggressive approach that may relieve symptoms and prolong the life of cirrhotic patients who are on the transplant waiting list.

About liver cancer

Approximately 80 percent of people with hepatocellular carcinoma also have cirrhosis. People with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus are at an increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma is increasing in the U.S., which may be related to the rise of hepatitis C viral infections.


Many people with hepatocellular carcinoma have no symptoms until the disease becomes advanced. The common symptoms of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased energy
  • Fevers of unknown source
  • Shoulder pain
  • Bone pain

These symptoms are not the only way to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma and should be evaluated by your doctor.


Most hepatocellular carcinoma cases are identified by ultrasound or computerized tomography scans. The diagnosis is confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging or liver biopsy. Once the hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosis is made, additional testing must occur to evaluate the main characteristics of the tumor(s). After the tumor is examined, treatment options need to be determined. The number, size and the location of these tumors may limit treatment options.