How to live with metastatic liver cancer

A cancer that originated anywhere in the body and then spread to the liver is called a metastatic liver cancer:

  • symptoms include undiagnosed vomiting, fading appetite, growing belly, weight loss
  • a biopsy will be done in a hospital to make the exact diagnosis
  • survival rate is so low that doctors won’t advice the patient to do everything possible to fight the disease.

We share how patients do all what is needed in order to fight the disease, but at the same time, we are still looking to find a contributing cancer survivor. Read more at Jim’s son happy 1 year cancer free anniversary.

Secondary cancer mostly spreads from the colon, pancreas, stomach, breasts or lungs. Any tumor that breaks free from its original location is easily transmitted via the blood into the liver, due to the liver filtering all the blood in a person’s body. Most of the times a cancer is found in the liver, it has spread and therefore isn’t easily curable by just administering chemotherapy nor cancer.

Palliative care

When doctors don’t want to go the extra mile in trying to cure the disease, you will end up in "palliative care": they will advice the patient to do what is needed to make life as comfortable as possible. However once a person gets a prognosis, usually between 2 to 6 months, it will go downhill every day. Compare it with a snowman in spring: on cold days he will stand to live another day, on warm days a part will melt away.


Symptoms are vague but have one thing in common: they will persist for no good reason. Mostly there will be vomiting, weight loss and less appetite. The feeling that something is wrong but you don’t know exactly what and your doctor quickly dismisses it as old age or any other quick misdiagnosis.

However in the end stage, the liver in most cases will visibly be swollen. Do to a failing liver, the patient becomes confused or drowsy, as if they were stranded in the dessert without water for days seeing things that aren’t there. Fluid will start building up from the feet onwards (water retention) or in the abdomen(ascites). Mostly but not always the eyes can become yellow (jaundice).


More often than not: abnormal liver values during a yearly blood test will start extra examinations like X-ray or more accurate CT and MRI scans. When the results aren’t satisfactory, a biopsy (a needle extruded sample of the liver, guided by CT or a laparoscope), will be the last resort in order to find out under a microscope what kind of cancer is causing the harm.


Only a few patients will be admitted in clinical trials in the hope to cure them

Mostly the doctors will give you a grim prognosis that the end is near. The patient then has to choose between:

  • living longer with extra chemotherapy, radiation or surgery to reduce the speed of the growth of the cancer. Medicine can be injected directly in the main hepatic artery in order to reach the cancer cells directly.
  • living less long but without the above extremely harsh medical interventions.

Both options however will end in relieving the symptoms caused by a failing and growing liver that pushes the other internal organs away inducing enormous pain. Patients are advice to contact hospice and state their will from the moment thy can’t make further decisions on their own.

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