Statistics and outlook for liver cancer
This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with primary liver cancer. You can find the following information
Statistics and outlook for liver cancer
Outlook means the likely outcome of your disease and treatment. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With liver cancer, the likely outcome and treatment depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed (the stage of your cancer).
Below, we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of liver cancer. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. They are intended as a general guide only. For a more complete picture in your case, you need to speak to your own specialist.
We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wishes to read this type of information. Remember you can skip this page if you don't want to read it, you can always come back to it.
How reliable are cancer statistics?
No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating liver cancer section.
Following on this page, is quite detailed information about the survival rates of different stages of liver cancer. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.
Please note - No national statistics are available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot be regarded as any more than that.
We have a section explaining more about the different types of cancer statistics. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, you may find it helpful to read this before you read the information below.
Remember - statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two patients are exactly alike and the response to treatment also varies from one person to another.
You may hear your doctor use the terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival. This doesn't mean you will only live 1 or 5 years. 1 or 5 year survival relates to the number of people in research studies who are still alive 1 or 5 years after diagnosis. As part of research, doctors usually follow what happens to people for up to 5 years or more after treatment.
As with many other types of cancer, the outcome of your treatment depends on how advanced your cancer is when it is diagnosed. In other words, the stage of your liver cancer.
Remember - the figures below relate to primary liver cancer in adults. Primary liver cancer in children is very rare in the UK, but the outlook for children is better than it is for adults.
Liver cancer in adults has a poor outlook because it tends to be diagnosed late. By the time someone has symptoms and goes to their doctor, the disease is very often in the advanced stages. Only about 1 out of 10 people (10%) are diagnosed in the early stages of this disease when surgery can help.
Overall, around 20% of people live for at least 1 year after diagnosis. Around 1 in 20 people (5%) live for at least 5 years.
Many people with liver cancer also have scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) caused by infection or long term alcohol damage. Unfortunately, in this situation surgery is not usually possible (unless the tumour is small) and about half of these patients do not live for more than 3 months.
Treatment depends on how far the cancer has developed when it is diagnosed. Figures for liver cancer survival vary widely depending on the type of treatment that you have. Your outlook will vary depending on whether you are able to have
- A liver transplant
- An operation to remove the cancer from your liver
- Treatment to control symptoms only
The outlook is best for people who are able to have a liver transplant. Overall, about three quarters of people (75%) live for at least 5 years after this type of surgery.
Overall, only between 1 in 6 people (15%) and 1 in 4 people (25%) live for at least 5 years after surgery to remove liver cancer (liver resection). But in people who have cancers that are less than 3cm across, more than half (50%) will live for more than 5 years. However, unfortunately only a small proportion of people with liver cancer are able to have surgery.
Understandably, the figures are lowest for people who have a more advanced cancer at diagnosis. It is rare for someone with primary liver cancer that cannot be removed to live for more than 3 years after diagnosis. If the cancer is very advanced, patients are unlikely to live for much more than a year.
Other factors can affect your prognosis, apart from the stage of your cancer. Doctors have a way of grading how well you are. They call this your performance status. You may see this written PS. A score of 0 means you are completely able to look after yourself. A score of 1 means you can do most things for yourself, but need some help. The scores continue to go up, depending on how much help you need. This is relevant to survival because fitter people can cope better with their cancer and treatment.
For liver cancer, there are further factors that affect your choice of possible treatments. The most important is the health of the liver tissue that is not affected by the cancer. If it is damaged, for example by cirrhosis, it will be less able to replace any part of the liver removed by surgery. If the cancer has grown into any major blood vessels in the liver, especially the hepatic portal vein, this will also limit the extent of treatment that you can have. If the cancer has grown into the blood vessels, it is called vascular invasion or microvascular invasion.
No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people for example. The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. And how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will determine your treatment and prognosis.
Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve treatments for liver cancer. There is more about understanding clinical trials in our trials and research section. You can search for trials on our clinical trials database. To find liver cancer trials, choose 'liver' from the dropdown list of cancer types.
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