Liver and Biliary Tract Cancer

Treatment options for liver and biliary cancers.

Home > Services > Adult Services A-Z > Cancer > In Treatment > Liver and Biliary Tract Cancer
Prostate cancer legacy doctor talking with male patient

Getting started

Your treatment begins with your Legacy Cancer Institute doctor recommending a plan based on expert guidelines, called protocols. Your treatment is determined by:

  • The type of tumor
  • The location of the tumor (different types of cancers may grow in the liver or in the biliary tract, which includes the bile ducts and gallbladder) 
  • The extent of the disease, called the stage
  • Any tests you have had during diagnosis
  • A discussion about what is right for you

Liver and biliary tract cancer treatment options

There are several types of treatment for liver and biliary cancer, and many people undergo a combination of treatments.

  • Surgery aims to remove the tumor.  Surgery can be effective, especially for early stage cancers.   However, for many people it is not an option.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing throughout the body.
  • Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used when surgery or other treatments aren't good options.
  • Interventional radiology uses images from CT, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI and other tests to guide the tools needed to reduce tumors. These approaches are sometimes used for people who cannot have surgery.
    • Ablation destroys selected liver tumors with a probe inserted directly into the tumor that creates heat with electrical energy. The probe is inserted through the skin or as a surgical procedure
    • Transarterial chemoembolization or TACE uses chemotherapy drugs, often in the form of tiny beads coated with drugs, that are injected into the hepatic (liver) artery that supplies the liver tumor. A substance can then be injected to block the artery to keep the drugs in place.
    • Transarterial radioembolization or using Yttrium-90 (Y-90) is similar to TACE but uses tiny radioactive beads that are injected into the hepatic artery to deliver radiation directly to a tumor. Y-90 treatment for liver tumors may be available through a clinical trial (research study).

Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating liver and biliary cancer. There may also be a clinical trial (research study) for which you are eligible. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care. 

What happens next

Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these symptoms in the best ways possible. Comfort care can treat symptoms to help improve your quality of life; this is also called palliative care.

To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. These tests can also determine if cancer has returned. Whenever possible, we work to stop the growth of cancer and reduce the chance of cancer coming back.

Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.

A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.