Liver cancer care in Denver

The Sarah Cannon Institute at Swedish Medical Center, along with our Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas, provides expert care and support for liver cancer patients in the Rocky Mountain region.

For more information about the Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas at Swedish Medical Center, call (303) 788-3478.

Our team of experts are dedicated to treating liver cancer and other liver and biliary conditions, such as:

  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
  • Ascites
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Bile duct disorders, including benign and malignant bile duct tumors
  • Cancer of the liver, both primary and metastatic
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Drug-induced hepatitis
  • Gallstones
  • Inherited metabolic liver disorders
  • Portal hypertension
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E)

Liver cancer symptoms and risk factors

Our interdisciplinary team of experts is experienced in the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer. We recognize warning signs and symptoms to diagnose liver cancer early by utilizing advanced diagnostic tools. Our advanced technology, plus our expertise in realizing risk factors and symptoms allow us to identify and treat liver cancer early on.

Common risk factors of liver cancer include obesity, heavy alcohol use, Type 2 diabetes and viral hepatitis (Hep-B or Hep-C). For patients with these risk factors, our physicians examine each patient to determine whether any symptoms of liver cancer are present.

Some of the most common symptoms of liver cancer are:

  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Early screening and diagnosis

We use several different methods to reach a liver cancer diagnosis, including diagnostic imaging tests and minimally invasive exams. These can include:

  • Angiogram
  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • Laparoscopy
  • Medical history and physical exam
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Liver cancer treatment

We use cutting-edge imaging technology and advanced surgical procedures to treat complex tumors and provide the best possible outcome for our patients.

Many new technologies and treatments are helping patients with liver disease live longer and healthier. Our liver cancer specialists employ advanced treatment options, which can include surgical treatment, radiation oncology, chemotherapy, drug therapies, interventional radiology treatments and other hepatologic treatments. Our team offers highly advanced procedures, including:

Arterial embolization

This interventional radiology technique targets tumors more directly from the inside of the liver. Arterial embolization decreases blood flow to the liver by injecting a safe substance into the patient’s body. This is done in the effort to kill cancerous cells in the liver by decreasing the cells’ oxygenated blood flow.

Chemoembolization

A minimally invasive treatment for liver cancer that can be used when too much tumor exists to treat with radiofrequency ablation (RFA), when the tumor is in a location that cannot be treated with RFA, or in combination with RFA or other treatments. Chemoembolization delivers a high dose of cancer-killing drug (chemotherapy) directly to the organ while depriving the tumor of its blood supply by blocking, through embolization, the arteries feeding the tumor.

Complex biliary drainage

This is usually performed by an interventional radiologist with the help of X-ray guidance. Drains are placed to improve bile drainage compromised by benign or malignant tumors. In some patients, the bile ducts become blocked and bile cannot drain from the liver. The interventional radiologist places a catheter through the skin and into the bile ducts to drain the bile. In some cases, a small metal cylinder, called a stent, is placed in the liver to hold the blocked area open. A catheter may also be placed to drain bile in patients.

Irreversible electroporation

Irreversible electroporation is a minimally invasive surgery option used to destroy cancerous cells without the need for high heat or extreme cold. Not only is this a viable treatment option for patients, but also patients benefit as the moderate temperatures used during treatment do not harm surrounding critical bodily structures. Patients also benefit from irreversible electroporation by typically having a shorter recovery time, less pain and less scarring due to the operation not being an open surgery.

During the procedure, your surgeon will place two or more fine-needle electrodes around the liver tumor. Guided by computed tomography or ultrasound imaging, your surgeon will activate the electrodes, and they will deliver a series of high-voltage, low-energy direct currents with the intent to kill cancer cells.

Irreversible electroporation can also be used to treat pancreatic cancer, colon cancer and bile duct cancer, in addition to treating liver cancer.

Radiofrequency ablation

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) offers a localized treatment that kills the tumor cells with heat, while sparing the healthy liver tissue. Thus, this treatment is much easier on the patient than systemic therapy. Radiofrequency energy can be given without affecting the patient's overall health, and most people can resume their usual activities in a few days. RFA can be used for multiple tumors and can be performed by an interventional radiologist using nonsurgical techniques (directly through the skin with X-ray guidance) or by a surgeon (through a laparoscope or a traditional surgical incision). A small needle is then guided into the tumor. From the tip of the needle, radiofrequency energy (similar to microwaves) is transmitted to the tip of the needle, where it produces heat in the tissues. The dead tumor tissue shrinks and slowly forms a scar.

Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS)

Used most frequently in patients with liver diseases like cirrhosis, hepatitis or portal hypertension, a condition in which the normal flow of blood through the liver is slowed or blocked by scarring or other damage, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunts are placed to connect the portal vein to the hepatic vein to reduce the risk of internal bleeding or other life-threatening complications.

To learn more about liver cancer treatment at Swedish Medical Center, call (303) 788-3478.

Our team of liver cancer specialists

While advanced technology is critical to providing expert cancer treatment, there are many components of the individualized treatment plans at Swedish. Our patients benefit from an entire team of experts weighing in on their care plans. Each case is brought to an interdisciplinary case conference during which experts from many different care departments provide perspective on treatment and progress. At the Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas, our team of specialists come from many different areas, including:

  • Hepatology: Board-certified hepatologists offer advanced endoscopic techniques.
  • Interventional radiology: Interventional radiologists treat tumors or obstructions while using minimally invasive image guided techniques.
  • Surgery: General surgeons specialize in the operative removal of tumors of the liver and other organs of the biliary tree and GI tract.
  • Medical oncology: Medical oncologists draft and perform specialized chemo-therapeutic treatment plans.
  • Radiation oncology: Radiation oncologists deliver internal and external beam radiation therapy to referred patients; both inpatients and outpatients may receive radiation therapy.

Oncology patient navigation

A liver cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. At Swedish Medical Center, we have developed a patient navigator program that provides a single point of contact for patient and family needs and streamlines patient care. Our specialized oncology nurse navigators craft medical survivorship plans for each patient during their journey through survivorship. A survivorship plan can include how to access different medical services during treatment and recovery, remission instructions, warning symptoms, follow-up appointments, screening schedules and treatment dates.

Cancer support for patients and family

Patients and loved ones can call our Cancer Resource Center at (303) 788-2627 to speak with our nurses, dietitians and volunteers about resources and support services available for cancer patients.

Additionally, free support group and educational classes are held regularly, and patients are welcome and encouraged to attend. At support group sessions, patients have the opportunity to directly speak with our specially trained staff about scheduling a meeting with the appropriate Swedish health professionals.

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

The Center for Diseases of the Liver & Pancreas works within the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center. As part of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, our program provides convenient access to leading-edge cancer therapies and clinical trials. Through our Sarah Cannon oncology programs, we offer patients personal, individualized care with a trusted network of specialists who address every aspect of cancer care.

Accredited cancer programs you can trust

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center offers participation in leading-edge clinical trials and boast competitive patient outcomes. We have earned accreditation from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and The Joint Commission. The ACS has also recognized our oncology department as a Commission on Cancer approved program for the many types of cancer we treat and the number of specialists on staff to best diagnose and treat these cancers.

askSARAH helpline

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center is pleased to offer access to askSARAH, a dedicated helpline designed to help answer your cancer-related questions. Whether you have been recently diagnosed with cancer or have questions with screenings, signs or symptoms, a specially trained askSARAH nurse can help. Committed to ensuring you have the right resources close to home, our nurses are available 24/7 and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (303) 253-3225 or connect directly to a nurse who can help you today.

Phase 1 Sarah Cannon Clinic

A strong relationship with the Phase 1 Sarah Cannon Clinic means oncology patients at Swedish Medical Center have access to novel therapies through one of the largest early phase clinical trial programs in the world. The Phase 1 Sarah Cannon Clinic brings together the most innovative medical minds and resources to advance science and deliver personalized, compassionate care.

The Phase 1 Sarah Cannon Clinic is a global leader in cancer research with more than:

  • 200 unique agents in trial each year
  • 220 first-in-man trials conducted
  • Two-thirds of approved cancer therapies featuring Sarah Cannon as a clinical trial leader over the last 10 years

Together, our cancer network is providing physician-led and patient-centric care close to home for hundreds of thousands of patients—a number unmatched by any single cancer center.