UCLA offers exceptional expertise for liver cancer treatment on the West Coast. Our program brings together experts in hepatology (liver care), gastroenterology (digestive tract conditions) and oncology (cancer care).
The UCLA Gastrointestinal Oncology Program works closely with our partners at the Dumont-UCLA Transplant and Liver Cancer Center. In one coordinated program, you’ll have access to a wide range of therapies and clinical trials to provide answers and options. We offer numerous clinical trials of the latest experimental therapies for patients previously deemed incurable.
The liver is an organ shaped like a football in the upper right abdomen (belly). As a vital part of your digestive (gastrointestinal, or GI) system, it breaks down fats and processes toxins. It also breaks down and stores many nutrients absorbed from your intestines.
Liver cancer is the uncontrolled growth of malignant (cancerous) cells that starts in the liver. Only cancers that begin in the liver are called liver cancer. Sometimes, cancers that start in other parts of the body spread to the liver. These cancers are named for the region where they begin. Learn more about liver cancer.
The different types of liver cancer are named for where they start:
Liver cancer is more common among men than women. It’s usually diagnosed in people in their 60s or 70s. Other risk factors for liver cancer include:
A liver tumor usually doesn’t cause symptoms at first. As it progresses, symptoms might include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms in detail. If liver cancer is a possibility, you will get diagnostic tests such as:
Like many other forms of cancer, early diagnosis of a liver tumor leads to a better chance of a cure. For people at all stages, we offer liver cancer treatment options including:
In the early stages of liver cancer, doctors may remove part or all of your liver. This surgery is called partial hepatectomy or total hepatectomy. Removing the tumor eliminates cancer unless it has spread.
If the tumor is small and hasn’t spread outside the liver, you might be a candidate for a liver transplant. UCLA’s world-class liver transplantation program replaces a diseased liver with an organ from a deceased or living donor. Find out more about liver transplantation at UCLA.
Hepatocellular carcinoma tumors receive blood flow through the hepatic artery. Your doctor can take advantage of this tendency with two treatments:
These minimally invasive procedures use heat (high-frequency energy) to destroy liver tumors. Radiofrequency ablation and microwave ablation may be treatments on their own, or they may help reduce tumor size while you wait for a transplant. Learn more about radiofrequency and microwave ablation.
Some people with liver tumors who can’t have surgery or a liver transplant get targeted therapy. Several available targeted medications can destroy or slow the growth of liver tumor cells.
Radiation for liver cancer is most often delivered via embolization, but sometimes we use external radiation. We use advanced methods that shape high-powered X-rays precisely to minimize damage to surrounding organs. Read more about radiation oncology.
UCLA doctors conduct clinical research to find new therapies for liver tumors. Geneticists also work with precision medicine, which uses your DNA to help pinpoint the best treatment for you. See our clinical trials.
To schedule an appointment with the UCLA Gastrointestinal Oncology Program, please call the UCLA Cancer Hotline at 888-ONC-UCLA (888-662-8252) Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, or our Physician Referral Service at 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (800-825-2631).