University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute | UCCI

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Liver and Bile Duct Cancers

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If you have liver or bile duct cancer, our team of specialists at the UC Cancer Institute Gastrointestinal Center will review all available care options and work with you to provide the treatments that will offer the best possible outcome for you.

Liver cancer and bile duct cancer  are uncommon, often deadly cancers that have few symptoms. Jaundice, which gives your skin a yellowish tone, can be a sign of bile duct cancer. The bile ducts carry bile, a digestive juice, from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine.

Why UC Health is Your Best Choice for Liver and Bile Duct Cancer

We are Greater Cincinnati’s premier center for liver and bile duct cancer.
UC Cancer Institute Gastrointestinal Cancer Center has Greater Cincinnati’s largest team of experts dedicated solely to liver and bile duct cancer.

Our liver specialists, surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists work together to provide a customized care plan that addresses your cancer and your goals for care.

With a team of up to 50 specialists consulting weekly, we can discuss unique aspects of your case and recommend a treatment approach that is most likely to produce the best results for you.

We do liver transplants.
Liver transplants offer one of the best chances for cure of liver cancer. UC Health performs about 70 liver transplants per year, offering Greater Cincinnati’s only resource for liver transplants. Liver transplants at UC Health have almost doubled in the past few years, with outcomes better than the national average.

In addition, our criteria for transplants have broadened to give patients better access to this option and to move candidates from a waiting list to transplant at a faster rate.

We do transplants for liver and bile duct cancer. The treatment of liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma, is best served with a liver transplant and our center offers premier access and services to patients with liver cancer regardless of stage. The use of transplant for bile duct cancer is only offered at a few institutions across the country and UC Health is one of them.

We have a volume of cases that leads to better quality.
Because we see five to 10 new liver and bile duct cancer cases each week, you can be confident in our knowledge and experience to accurately diagnosis and most effectively treat these types of cancers.

We’re as aggressive as you want us to be.
Only about 10 percent of liver and bile duct cancers are completely curable. We follow your lead and are as aggressive as you wish in pursuing transplant, surgery or other treatments. Even if your tumor cannot be cured through these methods, we can take measures to stop a tumor in its tracks, reduce its growth and focus on therapies to enhance your quality of life.

Diagnosing and Treating Liver and Bile Duct Cancer

Diagnosis

Our specialized computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines give us better visualization of tumors in the liver and bile ducts and allow our radiologists to see fine details such as smaller tumors and whether a tumor is invading nearby blood vessels. In addition, we have radiologists who focus their work on interpreting images of the liver and bile ducts, making them more attuned to subtle differences in the images.

At UC Health, we also have a physician who specializes in viewing the bile ducts endoscopically (through a scope inserted through the mouth and into the stomach).

Up to 90 percent of primary liver cancers, hepatocellular carcinoma, occur in people who have cirrhosis (inflammation of the liver). If you have cirrhosis, we highly recommend ultrasound screenings every six months to increase our chances of detecting cancer at an early stage.

With an accurate diagnosis, we can help you decide on the best action to take in treating your cancer.

Treatment

Options for liver cancer treatment at the UC Gastrointestinal Cancer Center include:

  • Tumor removal through conventional surgery or laparoscopic surgery, in which the surgeon views and removes a tumor through small incisions in the abdomen. Our high volume of surgical cases increases our expertise and yields excellent results
  • Radiofrequency ablation, through which a surgeon or radiologist uses heat energy to destroy the tumor without damaging surrounding healthy tissue
  • Chemotherapy in pill form to kill cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy embolization, in which an interventional radiologist injects chemotherapy laced with radioactive beads directly into the tumor
  • Radiation therapy delivered to the tumor through the skin to shrink or destroy the tumor
  • Liver transplantation

A liver transplant is only an option for patients whose liver cancer started in the liver as the primary site. Other treatments methods can also be used for primary-site liver cancer or if cancer has spread from another site to the liver.

Our treatments for bile duct cancers are similar to those for liver cancer:

  • Surgery — tumor removal
  • Transplantation — available beginning in 2015
  • Chemotherapy — given through an IV in an outpatient center
  • Radiation therapy — including targeted therapies that are precise enough to hit only the tumor and to spare healthy tissue

For our surgical patients, we have a surgical intensive care unit dedicated to managing critically ill liver and bile duct patients.

Advancing Knowledge about Liver and Bile Duct Cancer
Beyond treating patients at UC Health, the multispecialty team of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center reaches out to the regional medical community to share knowledge on liver-related topics via physician forums aimed at finding the best ways to treat patients with liver and bile duct cancer.

Statistics show that only half of those diagnosed with curable liver or bile duct cancer are being treated. We are researching to better understand barriers to getting therapy, with the hope of increasing access to care.

We have ongoing clinical trials for liver and bile duct cancers.