Physicians at Baptist Offer More to Fight With for Liver Cancer

Monday, May 18, 2009

A diagnosis of liver cancer can be stressful and scary. Selecting the best treatment for liver cancer depends on being able to identify the type, location, size and borders of the tumor or tumors. Physicians at Baptist Cancer Services, a division of Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. treat liver cancer using a multidisciplinary treatment team approach. This team is board-certified physicians and includes specialists in surgery, interventional radiology, gastroenterology, oncology, radiation oncology, and pathology. Team members collaborate to develop the most effective treatment plan for each patient.

There are two broad categories of liver cancer - primary and metastatic. Primary liver cancer starts in the liver and is referred to as Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC). It's the most common and is associated with liver cirrhosis most of the time. There is also a strong relationship between HCC and chronic Hepatitis B and chronic Hepatitis C. Metastatic liver tumors spread to the liver from other places in the body. It might start off as breast cancer, melanoma, lung or colon cancer and so forth.

"Surgical removal of liver cancer tumors is the most effective treatment," said Interventional Radiologist Tim Usey, M.D. "You want to take it out if you can. However, when it comes to other treatment options, you have to look at the patient's condition and their ability to tolerate the different treatment options for liver cancer tumors."

No standard treatment currently exists for liver cancer when tumors cannot be surgically removed and liver transplantation is not a viable option. Dr. Usey added, most liver cancers are not detected until the disease has reached an advanced stage. There are several treatment options physicians may consider when surgery isn't possible such as cryosurgery or chryotherapy, chemotherapy, percutaneous ethanol injection, radiofrequency ablation and chemoembolization.

"Chemoembolization can have promising results which suggest that this treatment approach may help a carefully selected group of patients with liver cancer," Dr. Usey added. "Using this therapy, we have seen patients' lives prolonged up to three years from a diagnosis of extensive HCC.

During Chemoembolization, under x-ray guidance, a small catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin. The catheter's tip is threaded into the artery in the liver that supplies blood flow to the tumor. Chemoembolization uses the drug doxorubicin, which is injected through the catheter into the tumor and mixed with particles that embolize or block the flow of blood to the diseased tissue.

Radiofrequency ablation is another popular treatment for not only liver cancer but many other cancers in the body. It is a procedure that uses heat to destroy abnormal tissues in the body. It involves inserting a thin needle, guided by imaging techniques such as ultrasound or computed tomography, through the skin (or, in some cases, through a laparoscopic incision) and into the core of a tumor.

"Liver cancer affects a large number of Mississippians," Dr. Usey said. "Effective treatment can be complex, but Baptist has a variety of physicians to come together as a team to decide what the best treatment option for the patient is and no other health care organization in the state has that."

Patients with liver cancer have access to Baptist Cancer Services, which the American College of Surgeons has designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. It's the first cancer center in the world to receive Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) achieving Disease-Specific Care certification. Baptist Cancer Services treats the largest number of adult cancer cases in Mississippi and is the only hospital in Mississippi who has an alliance with the M. D. Anderson Physicians Network®, an affiliate of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center


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