Side Effect Management

Side effects experienced for the treatment of liver cancer vary. Your body will need time to recover. Initially, you will have pain and/or discomfort and medication to control the pain. Be sure to communicate openly to your nurse or doctor about your pain.

It is important to remember that acetaminophen (Tylenol*), a common pain reliever, can damage the liver. You should not take acetaminophen unless the doctor treating your liver cancer instructs you to take it.

You may also have abdominal discomfort - a feeling of fullness. Walking can help decrease the discomfort and return your bowel function to normal.

Following are the most common symptoms as they relate to procedures:

Percutaneous Ethanol Injection - Patients may have fever and pain after this procedure.

Cryosurgery - Because a smaller incision is needed for cryosurgery than for traditional surgery, recovery after cryosurgery is generally faster and less painful. Also, infection and bleeding are not as likely.

Hepatic Arterial Infusion - The drug mainly affects the cells in the liver and only small amounts reach other parts of the body. Chemoembolization and hepatic arterial infusion cause fewer side effects than chemotherapy because the drugs don’t flow through the whole body. Side effects from hepatic arterial infusion include infection and problems with the pump device, which may need to be removed.

Chemoembolization - This treatment may cause nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain.

Radiation Therapy - Side effects of radiation to the abdomen depend on dose and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other problems with digestion.

Chemotherapy - Side effects depend on the specific drugs and the dose and include hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and mouth sores.

Liver Transplants - If you have a liver transplant, you will first go to an intensive care unit after your surgery to recover. You will remain in the hospital for several weeks and may have a drain to help reduce a fluid around the surgery site. Your doctor will be carefully assessing your condition to be sure that your body is accepting the new liver.

Immunosuppressants, drugs that decrease the response of your immune system to the new liver, will be given to reduce the potential for rejection. Ask your nurse or doctor about side effects of the specific immunosuppressants you are taking.

If you have a transplant, you will remain on antibiotics for a period of time after your transplant to protect you from infection.

Immediately call your doctor if you experience a fever, redness or pus at your surgery site, bleeding or signs of liver failure - yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine or confusion - after surgery.

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