Liver cancer

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Treatments for recurrent liver cancer

There are no standard treatments for liver cancer that comes back after treatment (called recurrent liver cancer). Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Treatment options will depend on:

  • where the cancer has returned
  • how well your liver is working
  • your overall health


You may be offered surgery if cancer comes back only in the liver.

Liver resection, or partial hepatectomy, is used to remove the tumour along with a margin of healthy tissue around it. It may be offered if you have enough liver tissue after the treatments you had for the original tumour, your liver is working well and the tumour can be completely removed by surgery.

Liver transplant may be offered if there will not be enough liver to work well after a liver resection.

Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE)

TACE is a treatment that blocks the blood supply to a liver tumour and delivers chemotherapy directly to the tumour. You may be offered TACE if you can’t have surgery for recurrent liver cancer and the cancer has come back in the liver only.

Ablation therapy

You may be offered radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) if the cancer recurs in the liver and you can’t have surgery.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses a high-frequency electrical current to create heat to destroy cancer cells.

Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) is a treatment that injects concentrated ethanol alcohol through a needle into a liver tumour. It is not used very often.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on the surface of cancer cells. These molecules help send signals that tell cells to grow or divide. By targeting these molecules, the drugs stop the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting harm to normal cells.

You may be offered targeted therapy if the cancer recurs outside of the liver or if you can’t have surgery.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better rather than treat the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

You may be asked if you want to join a clinical trial for liver cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.