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Liver Cancer: Care Instructions

Abdominal organs


Liver cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the liver. Liver cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, bones, or the lymph nodes and tissues in the belly.

Treatment depends on what type of liver cancer you have and how far it has spread. You may need more than one kind of treatment, such as medicine, surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. In some cases, other treatments or a liver transplant may be needed.

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.

Your medical team will work with you to help manage the treatment side effects. These can include feeling very tired, feeling sick to your stomach, or having a higher risk for infections.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 advice line if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • 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.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired.
  • Get enough sleep and take time to do things you enjoy. This can help reduce stress.
  • Think about joining a support group. Or discuss your concerns with your doctor, counsellor, or other health professional.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other 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 have trouble breathing.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.

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

  • You have any abnormal bleeding, such as:
    • Nosebleeds.
    • Bloody or black stools, or rectal bleeding.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel very sleepy or confused.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • There is a new or increasing yellow tint to your skin or the whites of your eyes.

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

  • You have any problems.
  • You are gaining weight.
  • Your belly is getting bigger.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.