What You Need To Know About Liver Cancer Prognosis

The way liver cancer prognosis percentages are measured is by separating people into factor based groups, according to the stage of their cancer, which does not take into account unique individuals’ various circumstances, overall health, age and lifestyle factors. So, when you see a percentage that fits your type of cancer overall, it may not be accurate for you specifically - it is an average. To get a more precise prognosis, discuss it with your oncologist - he or she will access your case as an individual, including the type of tumor you have. Tell the doctor about your current and past mental and physical health, and history of cancer on both sides of your family.

The liver cancer prognosis 5 year survival rates that follow pertain to the number of patients who survive 5 years after their cancer diagnosis. They refer only to primary liver cancer, called hepatoecellular cancer.  Many cancers originate elsewhere, such as lung cancer, and spread to the liver, but liver cancer survival rates pertain specifically to hepatoecellular liver cancer. The total number of non-survivors includes those who have died from other causes, as the cause of death has not been broken down.

Looking at a five year survival rate, it is difficult to get an accurate number, not only due to unmeasured variables from patient to patient, but also because statistics represent 5 year old cancer cases:  Technological and medical advances over that five years aren’t accounted for, so it’s likely that the survival rate will be higher today. 

Broken down by types of cancer, the following 5 year survival percentages were complied from 1996 to 2001, for people diagnosed with hepatoecellular liver cancer. The percentages don’t reflect improved cancer treatments available from 2002 and beyond. The availability of more effective treatments may increase your survival rate.

Each type of liver cancer is defined following its percentage rate; based on the National Cancer Institute data base specialized for this purpose:

Localized - 21% five year survival rate
Stage one and some stage 2 patients with 1-2 tumors, localized to one lobe of the liver

Regional - 6% five year survival rate
Some stage II and all stage III patients, where the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, and/or formed multiple tumors in more than one lobe or area of the liver.

Distant - 2% five year survival rate
This is stage IV cancer - moved beyond the live to other organs or tissues

These liver cancer prognosis don’t account for a common condition often found in liver cancer sufferers -cirrhosis of the liver, which alone can cause death. That may explain the somewhat low total survival rate for 5 years for all stages and types of cancer: 10%, as reported by the American Cancer Society.

People with no cirrhosis, with localized cancer that can be removed surgically, have a 50% or higher 5 year survival rate. The good news is that treatments in the past 10 years have improved significantly since the mid 1990s, causing the overall survival rate to triple, even as the total number of cases of liver cancer has increased.