Advanced Techniques for Treating Liver Tumors

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New techniques for treating liver tumors are allowing patients to recover quickly and experience fewer side effects and complications. In this podcast, members of the multidisciplinary team at UW Medicine's Liver Tumor Clinic will explore the latest in treatment, plus a patient will share his story.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of UW Medicine, their staff, or Patient Power sponsors, Patient Power partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor.  Please have this discussion with your own doctor, that’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Well, if someone has more advanced colon cancer, and of course colon cancer is the thing we recommend so often you have regular colonoscopy for, certainly if you’re 50 or older.  I do.  But if it has spread, it can spread to your liver, so it can metastasize.  And there are other people who can develop cancer in their liver itself, and unfortunately that’s been increasing with the incidence of hepatitis C, which is an epidemic actually in the United States.  In either case, it calls for specialized care. 

And at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance they have that, where they have the various specialists who have approaches that can come together to treat that, all working together for the benefit of the patient.  We’re going to talk about that as an example of coordinated care for liver cancer or metastatic cancer that’s spread to the liver as--as it can make such a difference for people. 

And one person who has been affected in a very positive way by that is Derek Epps, who is 39 years old.  He’s an attorney and he lives in McCleary, Washington, which is west of the capital in Olympia, and Derek is recovering now from robotic surgery that he had.  He’s working, and he’s been working throughout, but he has had various procedures. 

Derek, it all started several months ago when they thought you had an inflamed appendix, right? 

So, Dr. Shankaran, when you did all the exams what did you believe had happened with the liver?  Was it as I described earlier, that cancer from the colon can spread and in this case had? 

But there was concern that this liver lesion needed to be addressed, and it was preferable for us to address this sooner rather than later so that’s when we got the liver clinic involved, and Derek saw them shortly after he initiated chemotherapy to discuss this.

So, Dr. Park, I understand in Derek’s case your approach that you all discussed with him was to do a robotic surgery, so sort of minimally invasive, to try to take out as you call that lesion.  So talk about that for a minute, what you’re able to do in a minimally invasive way now.  And I find it so incredible when I think about the liver, a lot of people don’t realize it, is that you can take part of the liver out and the liver can grow. 

So you’re absolutely correct.  The liver is unique, with the exception of the central nervous system.  It has a remarkable ability to regenerate, and in a case such as Derek’s where he had taken good care of his liver, one can remove up to 75, 80 percent of the liver and the remainder would grow back.  Certainly, his case, the tumor was quite small, it measured about 2 centimeters, and it was peripherally located, so we were capitalizing on that favorable location to try to provide him with a minimally invasive approach. 

Normally this operation would have required an incision that’s about maybe three or four inches in size.  It would require a three-to-four week recovery before he would be able to get back to a medical oncologist such as Dr. Shankaran to get chemotherapy, but he really outpaced everyone and has done remarkably well.

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