Is liver resection or liver transplant better for the treatment of liver cancer?

Although liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma is usually detected at later stages, many patients can still benefit from surgery. When a patient is recommended surgery, one of the common questions is, “Which is better, a transplant or a resection (surgery to remove part of the liver)?” Here are the primary factors to be taken into consideration before one decides.

If the tumor has developed in a background of cirrhosis (hepatitis B/C, alcoholic, severe fatty liver), that means the entire liver is damaged. In this situation, a transplant is preferred since the cirrhotic liver will trouble the patient again with liver failure or a new tumor formation. If there is a single tumor, even if significant, in an otherwise normal liver, liver resection is a safer and more feasible option. Transplant requires a donor, and the expenses can be prohibitive. 

In other word, liver resection is a good option for patients with non-cirrhotic livers, especially when costs and donor availability are a problem. In the unfortunate event of tumor recurrence after resection, a salvage transplant can be offered to many patients. A hepatobiliary surgeon will be the best guide for patients facing this situation.