Sarasota Interventional Radiology (SIR-Florida) has established itself as a state-of-the art facility that features the latest in technology to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. The expertise and leadership of leading interventional radiologist Gerald E. Grubbs, MD, SIR-Florida’s medical director, are unparalleled. Combined with board-certified anesthesiologists and a team of experienced clinical staff, SIR-Florida has built a strong reputation for delivering patient care of the highest quality in the Suncoast state of Florida.
One of SIR-Florida’s specialties is diagnosis and treatment of liver cancer, a cancer that originates in the liver itself. If a cancer originates in another part of the body and spreads (metastasizes) to the liver, it is not known as liver cancer but is referred to by the organ of origin. There are several types of liver cancer, the most common being hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The incidence of HCC has been rising since the turn of the century and is now one of the leading causes of death by cancer in the U.S.
HCC is prevalent in individuals with chronic liver diseases, e.g., cirrhosis from excessive alcohol consumption and hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection. HCC also occurs in those who have a large amount of fat in the liver, a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Other risk factors for liver cancer include diabetes, exposure to certain poisons known as alfatoxins, and inherited liver diseases such as hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer may have no symptoms in the early stages, but more advanced liver cancer is generally associated with these signs and symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the eyes or skin)
- Weakness and fatigue
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your physician.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Liver Cancer
If you are at high risk for liver cancer or have symptoms, your physician may order an ultrasound to see if a mass or tumor (often called a lesion) is present. If a lesion is found, it may be benign or cancerous. Benign liver masses are fairly common and don’t spread to other organs, but they may cause problems due to their size.
If a lesion is discovered, a CT scan may be ordered to further assess the liver. The CT will provide valuable information such as size, shape, and position of the lesion. SIR-Florida uses the revolutionary 128-slice, ultra-low dose CT, a highly sophisticated scanning technology that ensures patient comfort and safety. Compared to conventional scanners, SIR-Florida’s CT technology uses up to 90 percent less radiation and produces more detailed pictures than other scanners. This is the scanner you will want for evaluation of your liver.
SIR-Florida’s CT technology is also used to perform a CT-guided liver biopsy, which collects tissue sample from the lesion that is sent to the lab for analysis. An MRI is another option to diagnose liver cancer, because an MRI can often distinguish between cancerous and benign tumors and can examine blood vessels in and around the liver to evaluate for spreading (metastasis) of the cancer to other parts of the body.
If liver cancer is confirmed, size of the tumor(s), location, and other factors will be used to determine the best treatment plan. At SIR-Florida, Dr. Grubbs performs a cutting-edge procedure for liver cancer called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT), as well as radiofrequency ablation (RFA), microwave ablation, and cryoablation. For over 20 years, Dr. Grubbs has done targeted therapies for liver cancer with considerable success and positive patient outcomes. Other options for liver cancer treatment include surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue, liver transplantation, chemotherapy, radiation, and drug therapy. In cases where IV access is needed for administration of chemotherapy or medications, PICC lines and port placement are performed at SIR-Florida.