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Survival

Your survival when diagnosed with cancer that started in the liver (primary liver cancer) depends on how advanced it is at diagnosis and many other factors, such as your individual condition, type of liver cancer, treatment and level of fitness. Because of this no one can tell you exactly how long you’ll live.

Statistics for this cancer are harder to estimate than for other, more common cancers.

Some of the statistics are based on a small number of people. Remember, they can't tell you what will happen in your individual case.

You can ask your doctor for more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can talk to the Cancer Research UK nurses for general information on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

There are no UK-wide statistics available for liver cancer.

The following statistics are published in the European Clinical Practice Guidelines for liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). They are based on the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging system.

This system takes into account the size and location of the cancer, as well as how well your liver is working and your general health.

    For each stage, there are statistics for:

    • median survival, which is the length of time from diagnosis to the point at which half of the patients are still alive
    • 5 year survival, which is the number of people who survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis

    Stage 0

    Without treatment, the median survival for stage 0 liver cancer is more than 3 years.

    With treatment, between 70 and 90 out of 100 people (between 70 – 90%) will survive for 5 years or more.

    To treat stage 0 liver cancer, you might have an operation to remove part of your liver (resection), a liver transplant, or treatment to destroy the cancer, usually with heat (ablation therapy).

    Stage A

    Without treatment, the median survival for stage A liver cancer is 3 years.

    With treatment, between 50 and 70 out of 100 people (between 50 – 70%) will survive for 5 years or more.

    To treat stage A liver cancer, you might have an operation to remove part of your liver, a liver transplant or treatment to destroy the cancer (ablation therapy).

    Stage B

    Without treatment, the median survival for stage B liver cancer is 16 months.

    With treatment, the median survival for stage B liver cancer is 20 months.

    To treat stage B liver cancer, you might have chemotherapy directly into the blood vessel feeding the tumour in the liver and blocking off the blood supply. This is called transarterial chemoembolisation or TACE.

    Stage C

    Without treatment, the median survival for stage C liver cancer is between 4 and 8 months

    With treatment, the median survival for stage C liver cancer is between 6 and 11 months.

    To treat stage C liver cancer, you might have a targeted cancer drug such as sorafenib. Or your doctor may suggest a clinical trial.

    Stage D

    Without treatment, the median survival for stage D liver cancer is less than 4 months.

    There are no treatments that work well for stage D liver cancers. But your doctors and specialist nurses will continue to treat any symptoms you may develop.

    Survival for all stages of liver cancer

    For adults diagnosed with liver cancer in England:

    • around 36 out of 100 people (36%) will survive their cancer for 1 year or more after diagnosis
    • more than 12 in 100 people (more than 12%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

    Remember - these figures relate to primary liver cancer in adults. Primary liver cancer in children is very rare in the UK.

    Survival of liver cancer by age

    5 year survival for liver cancer is generally higher in younger people compared to older people.

    In people aged 15 to 39, around 35 out of 100 people in England diagnosed with liver cancer (around 35%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more.

    In people aged 75 and over, around 5 in 100 people diagnosed with liver cancer (around 5%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more.

    What affects survival?

    Your outlook is affected by the treatment you have.

    Treatment decisions depend on the size of the cancer and whether it has spread. It also depends on the health of your liver tissue that is not affected by the cancer. 

    Your general health and fitness also affects survival.

    More statistics

    For more in-depth information about survival and liver cancer, go to our Cancer Statistics section.

    Last reviewed: 
    26 Apr 2018
    • EASL-EORTC Clinical Practice Guidelines: Management of hepatocellular carcinoma
      European Journal of Cancer, 2012. Volume 56, Pages 908-943

    • Hepatocellular carcinoma: ESMO-ESDO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
      C Verslype and others
      Annals of Oncology, 2012. Volume 23, Pages 41-48

    • Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
      VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
      Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

    • Cancer and Its Management (7th edition)
      Jeffrey S. Tobias and Daniel Hochhauser
      Wiley-Blackwell, 2014

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