Caring for a Loved One With Liver Cancer

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A caregiver is someone who most often assists a person with a health condition (like cancer) and is usually a partner, family member, or close friend. Caregivers are essentially gatekeepers, serving as the liaison between a person and their healthcare team.

While the caregiver role is a special, often treasured position, it can also be overwhelming and exhausting, both physically and mentally. The good news, though, is that with self-care, communication, flexibility, and support, caregivers can feel empowered and self-assured to embrace and make the best of this healing, compassionate journey with their loved one.

Older couple relaxing on bed
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Take Care of Yourself

Whether you are a parent, partner, friend, or relative caring for a person with liver cancer, it's important to consider your own physical and emotional needs. This means engaging in everyday, healthy habits that will nourish your body and rejuvenate your soul.


One important aspect of caring for yourself is to take breaks. This means taking time away from your loved one to attend to yourself, whether that's to go for a morning walk, to see your own doctor for a check-up, or to simply grab a coffee or a movie with a friend.

To find a substitute caregiver, try reaching out to family members, friends, a neighbor, church volunteers, your cancer support team, or even hired help. You may be surprised just how many people want to help you but are unsure how.


Exercise has so many health benefits including reducing stress and improving well-being. With that, be sure you find time to incorporate a daily exercise routine into your caregiving schedule.

Eat Nutritiously

Caring for someone with liver cancer often means more than handling the "cancer" part of the care. It also means helping your loved one with an array of everyday tasks like assistance with bathing, feeding, dressing, getting in and out of the car, driving, and performing household chores like cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.

With this exhaustive list, you may neglect cooking your own meals, opting instead to order in food or microwave a tv dinner. If possible, though, you should try to prepare homemade, healthy meals for you and your loved one. Like exercise, eating fresh, nutritious-packed meals will help you feel better.

If you are strapped for time or energy, consider setting up an online meal train where other friends and family members can delivery a homemade meal a few times a week. You may also consider scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist who has experience working with people with liver cancer.

Help Communicate

A caregiver is a critical part of the cancer care team, often navigating not only the physical aspects of caring for a loved one with liver cancer (for example, giving medications and managing side effects) but the logistical ones as well, including:

  • Calling insurance companies
  • Coordinating hospital stays
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Picking up medications from the pharmacy
  • Calling the cancer care team with updates on how an infection is doing or how a symptom is evolving

All of these tasks take time and mental stamina, so do not be afraid to ask for help from your cancer care team. For instance, if an insurance issue is bogging you down, ask your social worker if there is another way to approach the insurance company.

Be Flexible

A caregiver of someone with liver cancer wears many hats, and these hats (or roles, so to speak) change as the person with liver cancer moves forward with their diagnosis and treatment plan.

Try to be flexible as you care for your loved one, knowing that things can change from one day to the next.

For example, just when you think you have adopted a treatment regimen to help your loved one manage his or her cancer or post-surgical pain, another problem, like nausea or vomiting, or a therapy side effect, like diarrhea or a blistering rash, may arise.

While it may seem like you are always putting out fires, try to take each day as it comes, adopt an easygoing mindset, and find joy in the small "wins."

Find Support

Being a caregiver may be lonely at times. To combat isolation, it's a good idea to reach out to others for support.

Besides reaching out to friends, family members, or religious or spiritual advisors, another good resource is the American Cancer Society, which offers a number of support tools for caregivers, including online support communities.

In addition to seeking out support, it's important to be aware of symptoms of depression, like sleep difficulties, a sad mood, and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. Be sure to see your doctor if such symptoms arise.

Liver Cancer Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

A Word From Verywell

While navigating the physical and mental highs and lows of your caregiving journey, remember to be kind to yourself. While you are doing the best you can to care for your loved one, know that cancer has a mind of its own. Even with the best treatments and care, bad things like infection or cancer progression do happen. During these difficult times, taking a deep breath of fresh air, holding the hand of your loved one, and savoring the present moment can go a long way.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What side effects should I expect from my loved one's liver cancer treatment?

    If your loved one undergoes chemotherapy, you may have to assist in managing side effects that include mouth sores, hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, bruising, fatigue, and increased risk of infections.

  • How long can my loved one live with a cancer diagnosis?

    Someone diagnosed with cancer can live for years depending on the stage at diagnosis and how well the cancer responds to treatment. The five-year relative survival rate for liver cancer that has not spread beyond the liver is 34%. If the cancer has spread regionally (nearby lymph nodes or structures) or distantly (further areas such as the lungs or bones), the five-year survival drops to 12% and 3%, respectively.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Cancer Society. Caregiver resource guide.

  2. Family Caregiver Alliance. Taking care of YOU: self-care for family caregivers

  3. American Cancer Society. What is a cancer caregiver? Updated June 6, 2016.

  4. American Cancer Society. If you’re about to become a cancer caregiver. Updated October 31, 2019.

  5. American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy for liver cancer. Updated April 1, 2019.

  6. American Cancer Society. Liver cancer survival rates. Updated January 29, 2021.

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