Treatments for Liver Cancer

Your specialized surgical oncologist can remove tumors of the liver, in many instances using a minimally invasive approach. Northwestern Medicine has specialized surgical oncologists who have expertise in liver cancer surgery, including resection and ablation.

Other treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is medication that is administered intravenously or orally to kill cancer cells.     
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses targeted radioactive waves to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Radioembolization: A specialized interventional radiologist may use intra-arterial yttrium-90 radioembolization (commonly called Y-90) to radiate a liver tumor.
  • Chemoembolization: A specialized interventional radiologist can perform chemoembolization in which anticancer drugs are administered directly into a tumor through its feeding blood supply, which allows for a higher concentration of the drug to be in contact with the tumor for a longer period of time.
  • Ablation therapies: Ablation is a type of treatment that destroys tumors without removing them. These techniques may be used for patients when surgery is not a good option because of poor health or reduced liver function. Often, ablation can be done without surgery by inserting a needle or probe into the tumor through the skin.
  • Clinical trials: Clinical trials are studies to help researchers find effective cancer treatments.

Palliative care

Side effects from cancer treatment can impact your quality of life and your body’s ability to respond to treatment. Palliative medicine specialists work with your oncologist to help relieve your pain and manage your symptoms. Palliative medicine services include:

  • Treatment of pain and other physical symptoms of cancer, such as fatigue, nausea, trouble sleeping, poor appetite, breathing difficulties and weight loss
  • Treatment of emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety
  • Improving your body’s ability to tolerate cancer treatments
  • Helping you better understand tests, procedures and options
  • Guiding you and those who care for you to helpful outside resources

From your initial diagnosis throughout your care, the palliative medicine team can help you remain stronger in your fight against cancer and feel better, every step of the way.


Liver cancer treatment depends on your overall health, extent of the disease and your tolerance for various therapies. Treatment options will likely include a combination of treatments.