Liver Cancer: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Abdominal organs

Liver cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the liver. Many times the cancer starts at another part of the body, like the colon or lung, and spreads to the liver. Other times, the cancer starts in the liver.

Treatment for liver cancer depends on what kind of cancer you have and how far it has spread. You may need surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Another treatment uses different methods-radio waves, freezing, or injecting chemicals directly into the tumour-to kill cancer cells. You may need more than one of kind of treatment. If your cancer cannot be cured, the goal may be to remove or destroy as much of the tumour as possible. This can prevent cancer from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible.

Treatment with chemotherapy or radiation can make you feel very tired and sick to your stomach and may cause diarrhea. It also can make your immune system weaker. This can raise your risk of infection.

Finding out that you have cancer is scary. You may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems with your medicine. You may get medicine for nausea and vomiting if you have these side effects.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss. Drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein. Try to eat your main meal early. Some people do better with small, frequent meals rather than one or two large ones.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired. Keep doing the hobbies you enjoy as your energy allows.
  • Take steps to control your stress and workload. Learn relaxation techniques.
    • Share your feelings. Stress and tension affect our emotions. By expressing your feelings to others, you may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Consider joining a support group. Talking about a problem with your spouse, a good friend, or other people with similar problems is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Express yourself through art. Try writing, crafts, dance, or art to relieve stress. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available just for people who have cancer.
    • Be kind to your body and mind. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking time to do things you enjoy can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your life and can help reduce stress.
    • Get help if you need it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, counsellor, or other health professional.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids (enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water) to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare an advance care plan. An advance care plan provides instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You cough up blood.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon, black, or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have any unusual bleeding, such as:
    • Blood spots under the skin.
    • A nosebleed that you cannot stop.
    • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.
    • Blood in your urine.
    • Vaginal bleeding when you are not having your period, or heavy period bleeding.
  • You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
  • You are very sleepy or confused.
  • You have nausea or vomiting that is not controlled by medicine.
  • Your pain is not controlled by medicine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow, or they are more yellow than they were before.
  • You are not able to eat well and are losing weight.
  • You feel more tired than usual.
  • You feel very sad or anxious, or both.
  • Your symptoms do not get better, or they get worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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