Liver Cancer

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-02-18 (EDT)

Editor-In-Chief: Dr. Heidi Kussmann, ND, FABNO

Liver cancer is one of the most common cancers and causes of cancer death in the world. It occurs most commonly in Asia and Africa. Medically it is called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and up to one million deaths worldwide are due to HCC. It is more common in men.[1]

Liver Cancer
Causes Infections,Smoking, Environmental Toxins
See Also Oncology
Books Books on Oncology
Articles Articles on Oncology (Cancer)

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing.


  • Alcohol is associated with increased risk of HCC.[1]



  • Hepatitis B and C viral infections are associated with liver cancer.
  • The amount of aflatoxins exposure, which is produced by the ubiquitous fungi Aspergillus flavus or A. parasiticus found in peanuts, corn and cassave, correlates with risk of HCC development in humans.
  • Exposure to Clonorchiasis is associated with the development of HCC>
  • Exposure to vinyl chloride, and thorium dioxide or methotrexate is associated HCC. [1]


Medical Interventions

Medical treatments and interventions that increase the risk of HCC include:

  • insulin intake
  • Females who have used oral contraceptives 8 or more years


Conditions predisposing to HCC include:

  • Family history of HCC, male sex, Asian or African race
  • Mutation in the p53 gene


Diagnostic Tests

  • Angiography of the hepatic, celiac and superior mesenteric arteries to assess tumor vasculature and the patency of the portal vein may also be indicated.
  • A contrast ultrasound, CT or MRI may be required to rule out AFP increase from cholangiocarcinoma or other metastatic disease process.[2]
  • It is important to have a good histological work up (from a liver biopsy and pathology report) to confirm this is actually HCC. There are several types of benign or non-malignant types of liver abnormalities that must be ruled out.

Associated Conditions

Conditions that are associated with liver cancer include:[1]

  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis B infection
  • alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • tyrosinemia
  • hemochromatosis

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body. A treatment strategy is the most effective when it addresses the underlying causal factors. The treatment for prostate cancer depends on the staging (progression) of the cancer, an individual's symptoms, vitality and other conditions. The treatment strategies include: Prevention, Cancer Specific Treatments, Supportive Care and Prevent Recurrence.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.


Prevention involves addressing any of the causal factors before they cause cancer. Prevention of exposure to HCC risk factors is difficult where HBV infection is endemic, where social living conditions are poor.

  • Reduction of exposure to aflatoxin in food.
  • Prevention of HBV and HCV infections. [1]

Cancer Specific Treatments

  • Supplementation such as use of ginsenosides, green tea, limonene, mushroom polysaccharides, pycnogenol, selenium, silymarin, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E under the professional guidance of a naturopathic doctor who specializes in oncology. [3]

Silymarin is recommended during the use of TACE therapy to assist with the return to normal levels of the liver enzymes ALT and ALP. It has a clinically positive effect in supporting overall liver function and delaying decline if started upon the diagnosis of HCC or elevated alpha-fetoprotein levels. (See case study - sidebar)

  • Acupuncture is recommended for reduction of conventional therapy side effects, for pain and anxiety reduction, to support appetite and sleep, and to assist with overall quality of living.

Supportive Care

supportive care is often beneficial when conventional treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy are chosen.

Prevent Recurrence

HCC is often fatal and does not remiss. Most people die of liver failure rather than distal metastases causing complications to overall health and affecting mortality.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Casciato DA. Manual of Clinical Oncology 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2004. Pp 219-222
  2. Maurel J, and Bruix J. (2007). Hepatocellular Carcinoma. In Boyiadzis MM Editor, Lebowitz PF Editor, Frame JN Editor, and Fojo, T. Editor (Eds.) Hematology - Oncology Therapy; (pp 179-182). New York, USA: McGraw-Hill Medical
  3. Alshuler L and Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Cancer 2nd ed. 2007 Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts Publishing pp.187-212