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Father-in-law Has Primary Liver Cancer - We are confused!

Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2007

About two weeks ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with primary liver cancer. He has a 7" tumor in his liver. The surgeon at Abott NW Hospital told him that because the tumor was attached to a major artery, it was inoperable. He cautiously gave my wife's Dad a life expectancy prognosis of 1-2 years.

My father-in-law visited the oncologist today to discuss other treatment options and during that visit, the oncologist told him he probably had more like two or three months to live. Along with that pleasant news, the oncologist urged him to get his affairs in order and to contact Hospice "While he still had time."

We all are devastated by this news. I feel like the oncologist was way off the mark considering what the surgeon, who is one of two liver cancer experts in Minnesota, had said. I often wonder if people I've known who died from cancer would have lived a lot longer had they not listened to the predictions like this oncologist's.

We were all very hopeful (and I still am) but the wind has gone out of my in-law's sails after today's news. Any positive experiences anyone can share would be greatly appreciated.


Posts: 2
Joined: Jul 2007

As I am sure you are aware of now, there are a number of treatment options available for patients suffering from liver cancer. Among these treatments are some that are in clinical trials. A medical device company has been testing a drug delivery platform for the targeted delivery of ultra-high doses of chemotherapeutic drugs while protecting patients from the harmful side effects of chemotherapy. Doctors at the National Cancer Institute use catheters placed percutaneously in a process called percutaneous hepatic perfusion. Having produced dramatic responses in Phase I clinical trials, the testing leaped to the pivotal Phase III trial, currently underway. The treatment is currently being used for a variety of tumors in the liver, but can be adapted to isolate other organs and body regions, as demonstrated in animal trials. By isolating an organ, the device, from Delcath Systems, allows for the targeted delivery of chemotherapeutic agents in much higher doses, thereby improving therapeutic benefit while minimizing systemic toxicity. The Phase III trial currently underway at the NCI is delivering several times the FDA approved dosage of melphalan for the treatment of metastatic melanoma in the liver. The NCI is also currently enrolling patients in a Phase II trial with the system, for primary liver cancer and metastatic hepatic malignancies from neuroendocrine cancers and adenocarcinomas, as well as for patients with melanoma.

offutt9's picture
Posts: 88
Joined: Jan 2004

I am sorry to hear about your father in law... My prayers will be with him and you and your family. I was told in March of 2003 that I had angiosarcoma of the liver. Primary liver cancer. The cancer is in the blood vessels of my liver and that makes it very rare. After a long back and forth of cancer and no cancer(you can read about it in my web page) it ended up with ..I did have cancer. In August of 2003, my doctor called me at work and told me that there was nothing he could do for me. There were no medical treatments , or studies on this. He told me to forget I had cancer and live my life to the fullest because I would be dead by Christmas. Its been 4 1/2 years. I told him there was a greater physician and his name was GOD... No one can tell you how long you have.
I went to Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio and had 5 tumors ablated by Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA). I had 2 more done around 18 months later. Still taking chemo to try to stop the tumors from growing, but I am fairly healthy considering it all and I feel very Blessed to be here. I give all the glory of this to GOD!!! SO TELL YOUR FATHER IN LAW NOT TO GET DOWN!!! His attitude and faith and will to get better will determine how he spends his days. He could get struck by lightening before he dies from cancer. Only The Good Lord Knows. I know how hard it is to face cancer and leave you loved ones behind. Its only natural to think about it. But you CANNOT give up. Please tell him that for me. I'm not giving up!!!! In Gods Love Barbara

Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2007

Tell your family member to not believe all the statistics and dire predictions on liver cancer. I was given a less than optimistic prognosis when I was first diagnosed in Aug '03--4 years ago. Now my surgeon refers to me as his "miracle patient." I'm not sure I'm that so much as the docs just don't always know exactly what our future looks like. I'm grateful for each day. It's very hard with a new diagnosis, let alone one that is primary liver. I hope he can find a doc that gives him hope, rather than negative messages. My best to your father-in-law and let him know there is hope.

Posts: 3
Joined: Apr 2008

I can't believe the surgeon gave your fil such a long expectation of life. A year maybe but not two. My wonderful fil was found with advanced primary liver cancer in 12/07. I believe in God. I believe God and God only knows when our death will occur. I am also a realist. Less than 5% of liver cancer patients are alive in 5 years. The problem is not so much the cancer but the liver and it's many, many vital functions. As the tumor disables the liver functions the effects are wide spread and terminal. The oncologist was more accurate in the time estimate he gave your family than the surgeon was. My fil is going to die within the numbers, 3-6 mths. I have lost two parents and one step-parent to 3 different cancers. My mother died from a reoccurance of breast cancer 15 years after her initial diagnois. 15 years - it didn't seem fair. Some cancers have been deemed "curable" but liver cancer is not one of those and probably won't be for years and years. I am sorry for your impending loss. I would urge you and your loved ones to spend quality time with your fil and learn all you can about how he will feel as the cancer progresses. that is not giving up. That is accepting the reality of liver cancer and doing the best you can with such a difficult illness. If the truth be known my fil should not have liver cancer. He has never, in 83 years had a drop of alcohol. He has no liver damage, prior to the cancer, that can be found. He should not have gotten liver cancer. Something else maybe but not liver cancer. He is comfortable and has yet to experience any real pain. His doc believes it is because his liver was undamaged by abuse. Even with this advantage the cancer has progressed exactly as it usually does. this is my 3rd party experince with liver cancer. I hope you find peace with the process.

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