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Liver Cancer

Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Research and Clinical Trials | Additional Patient Support

Each year in the United States, approximately 24,600 men and 8,590 women will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer.

The experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with liver cancer.

The complex care needed for liver cancer treatment requires expertise from a diverse group of physicians and medical professionals. Drawing from the diverse experience of nationally renowned physicians and surgeons who treat large numbers of patients with the disease, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Liver transplantation has emerged as an important treatment option for many patients with early-stage liver cancer. NorthShore recently added an experienced, transplant-certified hepatologist who will evaluate each patient with regard to their suitability for this liver cancer treatment. Serving as the liaison between a patient’s NorthShore treatment team and local liver transplant centers, primarily at the University of Chicago with which we have established a close collaboration, this physician will also be responsible for your long-term, post-transplant care at NorthShore.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with liver cancer have the added support of a specialized oncology nurse navigator to guide them through their diagnosis and treatment.

Liver Cancer Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis

Liver cancer is challenging to diagnose in its early stages because there are few symptoms. The primary risk factors for liver cancer are chronic hepatitis B or C virus infection and cirrhosis of the liver, or a family history of the disease. NorthShore has developed a dedicated outpatient program for the long-term care of patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. As part of this program, patients are screened for hepatocellular cancer on a regular basis (typically, twice annually), using ultrasound and blood tests.  Using this proactive approach, liver cancer can often be detected at an early stage—where a cure is possible.

At its more advanced stages, the disease may manifest itself in the form of liver cancer symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting and jaundice.

To establish the liver cancer diagnosis, a physician will perform a physical exam as well as blood tests. Imaging tests may also be recommended, including CT scan, ultrasound or angiogram, which help doctors view tumors on the liver.

Removal of a tumor sample for biopsy may also be recommended. NorthShore's expert pathology department ensures that a majority of tests and novel diagnostics are completed in house, providing swift results and thus beginning treatment as early as possible. 

Personalized Liver Cancer Treatment

Fellowship-trained hepato-pancreaticobiliary surgeons offer skill in complex procedures for liver cancer. NorthShore is among a few select institutions using minimally invasive strategies for liver resections. Our interventional radiology team uses the latest diagnostic and therapeutic technology, including therapeutic interventions like embolization of tumor vasculature, radiofrequency ablation and Yttrium-90 perfusion. These minimally invasive liver cancer treatments often replace more traditional invasive therapies.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. For liver cancer, your team may include your medical oncologistsurgeon, interventional gastroenterologist, hepatologist, radiation oncologist, oncology nurse, geneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for each patient.

NorthShore's Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy Program, brings additional specialized expertise to our patients. This sophisticated technology is becoming more important in helping to diagnose, precisely stage and treat benign and malignant tumors in the liver and GI tract.

Patients are at the center of this multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary specialists at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

NorthShore’s comprehensive Pancreaticobiliary and Liver Disease Program receives referrals from throughout the extended region and well beyond.

Research and Clinical Trials

For patients diagnosed with liver cancer, NorthShore participates in a variety of national and regional clinical trials, both at NorthShore and through the University of Chicago, where more than 800 of our attending physicians hold academic appointments. Kellogg Cancer Center’s experts in liver cancer are active participants and leaders in regional and national research, academic and advocacy organizations.

NorthShore’s nationally recognized Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system offers a data warehouse that enables physicians and researchers to integrate molecular and genomics data with clinical data to determine a patient’s best course of treatment. This information—specific to each patient—helps create an individually tailored treatment plan based on the patient’s genetic makeup and type of cancer. This analysis, through our Center for Biomedical Research Informatics, is yielding new insights into complex diseases and identifying opportunities to improve patient outcomes,  as well as addressing the risk factors in individual and family medical histories.

Our extensive tumor bank supports both tumor profiling and the effort by NorthShore’s Center for Molecular Medicine to develop an early warning system for liver cancer diagnosis. Furthermore, we also work with multiple national cancer co-operative groups such as Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.

NorthShore is the first in the nation to provide our patients and their family members with Health Heritage, a secure tool that helps individuals create a complete family health history and personalized risk reports.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.