Liver cancers can be of two types: primary or secondary. Primary liver cancer means that the cancer originated in the liver itself, whereas secondary liver cancer or liver metastasis spreads to the liver from another organ. Survival rate for secondary liver cancer is less, and mortality rate is high. Here is some information about this deadly disease.
What is Meant By Liver Metastases?
The term 'metastatis' is the spread of cancerous cells from the primary site to the other parts of the body. Liver metastases occur when cancerous cells from the lungs, large intestine, rectum, stomach, pancreas, breasts, etc., spread to the liver. When these cancerous cells are detached from the primary cancer site, they travel through the bloodstream. The rich blood supply in the liver is believed to be the contributing factor for liver metastases. Most of the time, cancer has already spread to the liver, by the time the primary cancer is diagnosed. Due to the delay in diagnosis, the survival rate is low.
The main problem with this medical condition is that it might be asymptomatic. Moreover, imaging studies such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computed Tomography) may be helpful in detecting the cancer. If the results of these tests are unclear, then a liver biopsy is required which can be a sure-shot method for the diagnosis of liver metastases.
As per the National Cancer Institute (NCI) records, every year in U.S., about 24,000 cases of primary liver cancer are detected. It must be noted that secondary liver cancer is more common than primary liver cancer. The survival rates are low because of the late diagnosis.
Treatment highly depends upon the primary cancer and its condition. Chemotherapy may be used to treat this medical condition. It does not destroy them completely but then the drug only helps in shrinking the tumor temporarily and hence prolonging life. Then, there is radiation therapy for the liver which helps in reducing the pain. Surgery might be recommended in some cases. A surgical resection may improve the chances for survival. However, it is an option only when the tumors are localized.
In cases where surgery is possible, the life expectancy also fairly increases. There are 75% chances that a person would survive for 1 additional year, 50% for 3 years, and 30% for 5 years. Hence, there are minimal chances of survival depending upon the condition of the liver cancer. Also, with treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, etc., an increase in the survival rate can be observed. There are 15% chances that because of chemotherapy, the life expectancy may increase for 1 year and 3% for 3 years. After a liver transplant, survival rates are the highest (80%) for 1 year, 70 % for 3 years, or 5 years. The chances are only better until cancerous cells do not target the new transplanted liver.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.