In Focus: Liver Cancer Program

Sasan Roayaie, MD

When Rochelle Mann met Sasan Roayaie, MD, she knew there was only one physician and one health system she wanted to trust with her liver surgery.

In June 2014, Ms. Mann, a 72-year-old commercial property manager and Queens resident, consulted Dr. Roayaie, Chief of Hepatobiliary Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. Gallbladder cancer had been discovered during a recent removal of her gallbladder, and the disease had spread to part of her liver.

“Dr. Roayaie explained things to me in an easy-to-understand way and even drew a picture of what needed to be done,” Ms. Mann said. “I had appointments scheduled with other physicians to get their opinions, but I knew after meeting Dr. Roayaie that I didn’t need to keep them.”

Building a Treatment Destination

Formed in 2014, the Liver Cancer Program at the North Shore-LIJ Health System features a multidisciplinary team of physicians, led by
Dr. Roayaie, that provides surgical treatment and nonoperative management for patients with hepatobiliary and pancreatic conditions — benign and malignant illnesses of the liver, bile duct, gallbladder and pancreas.

“Surgery is only one aspect of the program, but it’s an important part that requires a lot of expertise,” Dr. Roayaie said. “The liver has a rich blood supply, and the structures connected and adjacent to it are essential to life — so these procedures have little margin for error.”

For Ms. Mann, the program’s personal touch made the most powerful impression. Dr. Roayaie removed some of Ms. Mann’s lymph nodes and part of her liver in July 2014.

“The day after my surgery, Dr. Roayaie came to my hospital room, got me out of bed and walked the hallways with me,” Ms. Mann said. “How many other physicians would do that?”

For more information about the Liver Cancer Program at Lenox Hill Hospital, call 212-434-4170.

Meet Dr. Roayaie

Sasan Roayaie, MD, Chief of Hepatobiliary Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, joined the North Shore-LIJ Health System in the winter of 2014 to create something the health system was missing: a liver cancer program.

A graduate of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Dr. Roayaie completed a residency in general surgery and fellowship in multi-organ abdominal transplantation at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

“I was attracted to liver surgeries and transplantations during residency because they were complex and intellectually stimulating,” Dr. Roayaie said. “The subspecialty was new and exciting, and I felt like a pioneer in a field that demanded a multifaceted way of thinking to solve problems.”

Dr. Roayaie specializes in performing a variety of hepatobiliary and pancreatic procedures, particularly liver resections. He is also an internationally recognized clinical researcher with multiple highly cited publications on the treatment and outcomes of liver cancer. When not working, he enjoys horseback riding and surfing at Long Beach and The Rockaways.  

Keep Your Liver Healthier, Longer

Did you know that your liver is your largest internal organ? It performs many important functions that keep you alive. It’s important to keep your liver healthy so you can stay healthy. Knowing the risk factors and warning signs associated with liver cancer can help you know when to see your doctor, and knowing the appropriate steps to prevention can keep you healthier, longer.

Risk Factors

While certain risk factors for liver cancer can be controlled, others cannot. The National Cancer Institute lists the following risk factors:

  • Gender. Men are twice as likely as women to get liver cancer.
  • Family history. People who have family members with liver cancer may be more likely to get the disease.
  • Age. In the United States, liver cancer occurs more often in people over age 60 than in younger people.
  • Viral hepatitis. High numbers of chronic infections with the hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus make liver cancer the most common cancer in many parts of the world.
  • Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition that causes scar tissue to form in the liver. It can be caused by alcohol abuse, hepatitis B and C, and an excess of iron in the liver from a disease called hemochromatosis.
  • Long-term exposure to aflatoxin. This substance is produced by a fungus that can contaminate peanuts, wheat, soybeans, ground nuts, corn and rice.

Warning Signs

Liver cancer is usually not evident until its later stages, although sometimes it can be diagnosed and treated early. The following symptoms often accompany liver cancer and could appear with other conditions. See a doctor if you experience:

  • Appetite loss
  • Deterioration of your condition if you have chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis
  • Feelings that you are very full after a small meal
  • Jaundice
  • Liver enlargement or a mass that can be felt around the liver
  • Ongoing stomach pain/stomach swelling
  • Unexplained weight loss

Prevention

There are many steps you can take to prevent cancer. Consider the following ways to battle cancer early:

  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Patients with liver disease should undergo regular ultrasound screenings for liver cancer.
  • Quit smoking, or don’t start.

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