Liver cancer is known as ‘silent killer’; because the symptoms of the disease are not noticed when the disease is in its earlier stages. Here is some important information on liver cancer survival rate and the factors that affect the survival rate.
Over the last few decades, there has been a continuous increase in the number of people afflicted with chronic liver diseases. This is a major cause of concern worldwide. Liver cancer, when starts in the liver itself, is called primary liver cancer. When the cancer spreads into the liver from any other part of the body, it is called metastatic liver cancer. In the U.S., primary liver cancer is rarely found. Only 2% of all malignancies in the U.S. have primary liver cancer; whereas in Africa and Asia, about 10% to 50% of malignancies are of primary liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the top ten most common cancers in the world today. It is more common in men than women. About 75% cases of primary liver cancer are noted as cases of HCC.
The rate of occurrence of metastatic liver cancer in the U.S. is about 20 times more than that of primary liver cancer. When the blood passes through liver for filtration, cancer cells from other organs present in the blood stay in the liver and grow into secondary tumors. Thus, primary cancer from other organs spreads (metastasizes) to the liver. This type of liver cancer is recognized as metastatic liver cancer.
Risk Factors for Liver Cancer
The exact causes of liver cancer are not yet known. But there are certain elements which can place certain individuals at a higher risk of developing liver cancer. Age, gender, genetics (family history of liver cancer), presence of carcinogens in the environment, use of certain oral contraceptives, cirrhosis, alcohol abuse, exposure to hepatitis viruses and hemochromatosis (too much iron in the liver) are some of the factors that increase your risk of having liver cancer.
Factors that Affect the Survival Rates
Liver cancer survival rate tells us about the percentage of people surviving after the diagnosis of liver cancer, over a specific period. Generally, this period is of five years. People who are alive for five years after the diagnosis of liver cancer, are usually taken into consideration for calculating the survival rate of the cancer. Various factors affect this survival rate. So, you cannot predict ‘liver cancer life expectancy’ of a patient, with the help of such survival rates or any other statistics. The treatment and the response of a patient to the treatment remarkably vary from patient to patient. The stage at the time of diagnosis (whether the cancer is confined to the origin or has invaded other parts), the state of liver functions, general health of the patient and whether he is following a ‘healthy lifestyle’, influence liver cancer prognosis and in turn the survival rate too. The alpha fetoprotein (AFP) levels also determine the survival rate of liver cancer. When the cancer is detected at an earlier stage, the survival rate is obviously high. You should browse ‘early symptoms of liver failure‘ for more information. Regular checkup and consultation with a doctor, helps detect the cancer in its initial stages.
Statistics presented by the researchers are based on the data collected from a large number of patients. The purpose for which these rates are calculated; and the methods followed while calculating these rates, can be different at different places. According to the available statistics, a few years ago, the overall rate of liver cancer survival for five years after diagnosis was around 9%. While comparing the data, five-year survival rates are usually taken into consideration
- Age: According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of people when they get diagnosed with liver cancer, is 66. Maximum (around 27%) people diagnosed with liver cancer belonged to the age group 65-74. Around 21% people belonged to the age groups 55-64 and 75-84.
- Gender and Race: A few years back, the survival rate for the cancer originated in liver was around 10.5% for white women, while it was about 7.5% for white men. For black men, it was around 5.5% while for black women, it was around 4.5%.
Stages of Liver Cancer: The data can again be divided into following sections:
1. Localized Stage: When liver cancer is detected in its initial or localized stage; about 19% of the patients are likely to survive for 5 years or more. The percentage of cases diagnosed at the initial stage is about 30%.
2. Beyond Primary Site: Around 6.5% patients are likely to survive for 5 years; if doctors find that the cancer has spread beyond the original place, but to the regional lymph nodes only. About 26% cases are diagnosed when the cancer is in the second stage.
3. Metastasized Cancer: The five-year survival rate for liver cancer is around 3.5% if the cancer has started invading distant organs (when it is in distant stage or when the cancer has already metastasized). Nearly 22% liver cancer cases are diagnosed after the cancer reaches the distant stage.
4. No Stage Information: While collecting the data, it has been noticed that for around 22% of the cases diagnosed with liver cancer, the information about the stage at the time of diagnosis is not available. The five-year rate of survival for these cases was found to be around 3.4%.
- Liver Transplant: The survival rates are as high as 75%, after a liver transplant operation. But in the developing countries, for more than 70% cases, surgery cannot be considered as a possible option, since liver cancer is often diagnosed in its last or distant stage. For metastatic liver cancer, the survival rate is almost zero, because the cancer is present in various organs and it is likely to spread into the new liver after a liver transplant surgery, sooner or later. If the disease is detected in its initial stages, the survival rate after liver transplant or after the removal of cancer from the liver can be as high as 80%.
- Metastatic Liver Cancer: Age, overall health, health of mind, availability of advanced treatments, etc., determine the metastatic liver cancer survival rate. Actually, this kind of survival is very rare. But still, with advanced treatments like chemo-embolization and hepatectomy, around 55% patients can survive for 5 years.
This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Every cancer case is a unique case. Statistics are not to be used to guess what will happen to a person, who is fighting with cancer. The rate of growth of cancer can vary from person to person. Patients may opt for different types of treatments. It should be noted that statistics are more useful for scientists and their research programs. They should not be used to predict the life expectancy of a patient.