Liver Cancer (Primary)
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Liver Cancer (Primary)
Life after treatment
For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.
Some people say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had liver cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.
After treatment ends, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health, manage any long-term side effects and check that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread. During these check-ups, you will usually have a physical examination and you may have blood tests, x-rays or scans. You will also be able to discuss how you’re feeling and mention any concerns you may have.
People who still have hepatitis B or hepatitis C may be given medicines (antiviral therapy) to help manage these diseases and reduce the chance of the cancer coming back. Your doctor will also talk to you about the importance of not drinking alcohol, not smoking, eating healthy foods and exercising.
Check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any symptoms or health problems.
When a follow-up appointment or test is approaching, many people find that they think more about the cancer and may feel anxious. Talk to your treatment team or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you are finding it hard to manage this anxiety.
For some people, liver cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a recurrence. The cancer may come back in the liver, in nearby organs or in other parts of the body. This is why it’s important to have regular check-ups. You may be offered more treatment and may include drug therapy or the insertion of a stent. Treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have, where it has spread, your general health and the types of treatment you have had before.
For many people with primary liver cancer, the cancer cannot be cured. Talking to your health care team can help you understand your situation and plan for your future care. Palliative treatments may help control the growth of the cancer and allow you to continue doing the things you enjoy for months or even several years.
Facing the fact that the cancer cannot be cured can be very distressing. You can call
Cancer Council 13 11 20 for support and information or talk to the social worker or spiritual care practitioner (such as a chaplain) at your hospital or treatment centre.
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.
Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication—even for a short time—may help. Some people are able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council SA operates a free cancer counselling program. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.
This information is reviewed by
This information was last reviewed June 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Simone Strasser, Hepatologist, AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare, Gold Coast, QLD; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Anne Dowling, Hepatoma Clinical Nurse Consultant and Liver Transplant Coordinator, Austin Health, VIC; A/Prof Koroush Haghighi, Liver, Pancreas and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Prince of Wales and St Vincent’s Hospitals, NSW; Karen Hall, 131120 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Brett Knowles, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Lina Sharma, Consumer; David Thomas, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Michael Wallace, Department of Hepatology and Western Australian Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Medical School, The University of Western Australia, WA; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT.