Torrance Memorial Liver and Pancreatic Cancer Program

Cancers in the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder and pancreas are some of the most complex and difficult to treat, though thankfully equally rare. The most common cancer found in the liver has spread to the liver from another location, what is called “metastasis”. Much less common, people with viral hepatitis or chronic liver disease can develop primary liver cancer. Pancreatic cancer is 6th leading cause of cancer deaths.

We offer expert treatment for liver and pancreatic cancer. Only offered by a minority of liver surgeons, laparoscopic or minimally invasive liver surgery reduces the risk of complications and speed recovery and return to a normal life. For pancreatic cancer, some patients can have minimal surgery to remove just the cancer while others need a very complex surgery. The Whipple procedure is very complex and only performed by subspecialists and involves removal of the head of the pancreas, a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder and the duodenum and, sometimes, a portion of the stomach.

Symptoms of Liver and Pancreatic Cancer

There are no routine screenings for pancreatic cancer and they typically present no symptoms, or vague ones, in the early stages. Like many types of cancer, inexplicable fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss may be symptoms.

People with chronic liver disease or a history of hepatitis should have screenings to help detect liver cancers early. Early cancers have a higher rate of cure.

Other symptoms that may suggest liver or pancreatic cancer that warrant a visit with your doctor include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice
  • Light-colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Swollen legs, due to fluid buildup

Risk Factors for Liver and Pancreatic Cancer

Lifestyle factors that raise your risk of having liver or pancreatic cancer include obesity and smoking. Certain hereditary syndromes are linked with the likelihood of developing one of these forms of cancer as well, as is a family history of a liver or pancreatic cancer.

Certain illnesses also raise your risk. In particular, people with primary sclerosing cholangitis; ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory disease of the colon; or a history of gallstones have a higher risk of liver cancer. For pancreatic cancer, diabetes and chronic pancreatitis are linked with elevated risk.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Tests doctors use to rule out or confirm liver or pancreatic cancer and identify its extent include:

  • Imaging tests, such as CT scan, MRI and/or PET Scan
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): An x-ray procedure that captures images of the ducts (tubes) that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and from the gallbladder to the small intestine
  • Percutaneous trans-hepatic cholangiography (PTC): A procedure using dye, injected via a thin needle, to x-ray the liver and bile ducts.

If you have liver or pancreatic cancer, your treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

For More Information

For additional information about the Liver and Pancreatic Cancer program at Torrance Memorial, call our Nurse Navigator at 310-517-7077.