Removal of benign or malignant tumors is an option Washington University transplant surgeons can offer to some patients with liver disease.

Most often, patients who undergo removal of a malignant liver tumor have cancer that has metastasized (spread) from another part of the body — typically, the colon — to the liver. Many of these patients already have received chemotherapy to treat their cancer. Additional neoadjuvant chemotherapy — chemotherapy given before removal to shrink the tumor — is considered in some patients who have cancer that has metastasized to the liver.

Removal also may be an option for patients with hepatocellular cancer (primary liver cancer, abbreviated “HCC”) who do not have cirrhosis. The vast majority of patients with HCC and cirrhosis are not candidates for surgical removal because the remaining liver will not be able to regenerate and function for the part that was removed. In addition, there is a significant risk of recurrent cancer. Only about 20% of patients with HCC do not have cirrhosis.

For patients with HCC who do not have cirrhosis or metastatic disease, removal often is the treatment of choice, sometimes with chemotherapy as follow-up.

Washington University transplant surgeons also may perform radiofrequency ablation of liver tumors either alone or in combination with tumor removal in selected patients with primary or metastatic liver cancer.

Although most benign liver tumors require no treatment, removal is an option for patients who have symptomatic tumors or tumors that have the potential to rupture or become cancerous. For patients with extensive, benign liver disease and incapacitating symptoms, transplantation also may be considered.

Transplantation results have been excellent for patients in this group, who do not have the risk of recurrent disease.

For a patient appointment with a liver transplant surgeon, call (314) 747-9889.