18.3 PTC Cancer Life Phases: Liver Cancer Recovery

18.3 PTC Cancer Life Phases: Liver Cancer Recovery

Once you've lived through the first three life stages of dealing with cancer - PREVENTION, DIAGNOSIS and TREATMENT, we face long term recovery and practices that make that the best living possible, hopefully, cancer-free for many, many years.  Those practices include maintaining vigilance of PREVENTION and regular self-exams and periodic testing to continue to catch any future cancers early on with prompt DIAGNOSIS, the following will help live beyond that treatment experience, referred to here as the RECOVERY phase of life post-transplant cancer..

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Overview

A cancer diagnosis can affect every aspect of the patient's life, including work, financial issues, appearance and sexuality. Coping with cancer treatment is never easy, but following healthy lifestyle practices, like eating right, exercising, and dealing with your emotions can help. There are also many treatment options for easing cancer pain. Cancer caregivers should also be sure to look after themselves to keep up with this demanding role.  And then there is the lifetime recovery challenge as a cancer survivor - celebrate the fact that you are now in that elite community known as a 'cancer survivor'!
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What is the recovery from liver cancer like?  

If you have liver cancer surgery called a hepatectomy, which many people do, you can expect to spend some time in the hospital afterward. Or, if you have a transplant, which is also common, you can expect to spend several weeks in the hospital. If the surgery is laparoscopic, the time is shorter. You will wake up from surgery with drains like a catheter and others, and those are taken out before you go home from the hospital. You won’t be able to eat or drink for a few days so they will give you nutrients through some of those tubes. After surgery it is common to feel some pain. Nurses and doctors will help you by giving you pain medication. They can adjust it if you are still feeling pain, so you can just let them know. After you leave the hospital, it can take some effort to begin to move normally again, and you will have to wait to drive. Your doctor will tell you when it is safe to start exercising again, starting with gentle exercises and working your way up to the more challenging ones. You will need to take good care of the incision place by keeping it clean. Be sure to watch if it looks red, feels hot or gets inflamed. You will need to avoid alcohol for at least a month and only drink limited amounts of alcohol after that. If you have a transplant or treated for cirrhosis of the liver, you have to stop drinking alcohol. You will probably feel pretty tired and weak for a while after the operation, but that should get better after a few weeks.

How long does it take? 

After a partial hepatectomy, where they remove part of your liver, you will spend 5-10 days in the hospital. If you get a transplant, you will spend up to three weeks in the hospital. You won’t be able to drive for a few weeks. For a partial hepatectomy, you will need 4-8 weeks to fully recover. If you have a transplant, it will take 6 months or more for you to feel fully healed. Getting enough sleep is really important for recovery.

What types of support would a patient need? 

After surgery for your liver cancer, you will need someone to help take care of you until you can go back to your normal activities. You will also probably need some help running errands since you will not be able to drive for a few weeks. You may also want someone to go to your doctor appointments with you to help you to ask the questions you want to ask, and to remember the information the doctors give you. You will need to do regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure that you are recovering well.

What resources are available?

You can seek support from nutritionists, counseling services, pain management professionals or maybe even physical therapy. Also, be sure to seek social support by surrounding yourself with supportive and helpful friends and family members. Some cancer survivors also find it really helpful to join an online group of other cancer survivors because they feel well-understood by those people and can talk openly about their experiences with one another.

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    DISCLAIMER: The content of this TRIO post-transplant cancer Web site is not influenced by sponsors. The site is designed primarily for use by transplant recipients and their supporters. The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Please check with your transplant team or a physician skilled in cancer and your organ type if you suspect you are ill.