Liver Cancer | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
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Woman supporting her husband, a liver cancer patient at Miami Cancer Institute

Liver Cancer

Miami Cancer Institute’s renowned gastrointestinal care team uses the latest technology and innovation to treat liver cancer while providing compassionate care. We offer a broad array of treatment options, including resection, transplant and all available ablative therapies.

Expert Liver Cancer Care

Our highly experienced gastrointestinal cancer physicians have trained and conducted research at some of the nation's most renowned medical centers. Miami Cancer Institute’s chief executive officer and executive medical director, Michael J. Zinner, M.D., is a world-renowned cancer surgeon and researcher who specializes in cancer of the hepatobiliary system, which includes the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts.

About Liver Cancer

The liver is the largest organ in the body, located above your stomach on your right side. It is an essential organ for life; you cannot live without it. It breaks down and stores nutrients from the intestine; removes waste; makes some of the body’s blood clotting components; and makes bile to help the intestine absorb nutrients.

Primary liver cancer begins in the liver. Metastatic liver cancer starts somewhere else in the body and spreads to the liver. The main types of primary liver cancer are:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – begins in the hepatocyte cells and is the most common liver cancer. 
  • Fibrolamellar HCC – a rare form of liver cancer that often has a higher chance for successful treatment than other types.
  • Bile duct cancers (cholangiocarcinomas) – start in the bile ducts, which are small tubes that carry bile to the gallbladder. One or two of every 10 cases of liver cancer start in the bile ducts.
  • Angiosarcomas and hemangiosarcomas – rare types that begin in blood vessels in the liver, are fast-growing usually not diagnosed until they are in advanced stages.

Liver Cancer Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of primary liver cancer are:

  • Chronic infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • Cirrhosis
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Exposure to aflatoxins
  • Inherited liver diseases such as hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Liver cancer usually does not cause symptom in the early stages. In an advanced stage, symptoms may include:

  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Fever
  • Jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pain and swelling in the abdomen
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • White, chalky bowel movements and dark urine

Miami Cancer Institute’s team of pathologists, diagnostic radiologists and specially trained technicians use the most advanced and accurate technology to detect liver cancer.

Your physician will perform a complete physical evaluation to look for signs of liver cancer. You also will discuss your health history, lifestyle habits and family health history. If liver cancer is suspected, you may undergo a series of diagnostic tests, including:

  • Blood tests, to detect alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and analyze liver function.
  • Imaging tests, such as CT scan, ultrasound and angiogram with X-ray.
  • Biopsy, to examine a tissue sample.  

The principal treatment for liver cancer is surgery, and surgeons who perform this delicate surgery need exceptional levels of experience and expertise to achieve the best outcomes. During a partial hepatectomy, surgeons remove the cancerous portion of the liver while sparing enough of the liver to function. During a liver transplant, the liver is removed and replaced with a healthy donor liver.

Other treatments may include (alone or in combination):

Radiation Therapy

  • Proton therapy precisely targets the tumor, sparing healthy tissue and eliminating many of the side effects of conventional radiation treatment. 
  • TheraSphere, or radioembolization, uses tiny glass beads to deliver radiation directly to cancerous tumors in the liver.  

Tumor ablation therapy

  • Embolization injects pellets to block the blood flow to the tumor.
  • Cryoablation freezes cancer cells.
  • Radiofrequency ablation destroys cancer cells with high heat.
  • Chemoembolization delivers a high-dose of medicine.

Chemotherapy, to destroy cancer cells and control their growth.

Targeted therapy, which uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells, blocking their growth and spread.

Clinical trials that offer the opportunity to try new therapies.

Our interdisciplinary team of physicians and allied health professionals in our Cancer Patient Support Center also will provide comprehensive, patient-centered care that focuses on your psychological, social and spiritual health.