Life expectancy in liver cancer increases if the disease is detected at an early stage and the tumor can still be removed. Other factors affecting life expectancy include determining the exact type of cancer the patient is suffering from, the location of the disease, the level of metastasis, and the general health of the patient. Tumor size and volume of the affected liver also play a role.
Most liver cancers are fatal, but a significant number of patients can be cured if the tumor is detected at an early stage and has not spread to other organs.
If the cancer is localized and is a specific type of tumor, there is a small chance that it can be removed and there will be no relapse. However, liver cancer usually spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs before it can be detected.
Other common types of liver cancer may require a liver transplant. This usually occurs when the tumor is in an area that is difficult to remove without causing additional harm to the patient. This also applies when more than one type of tumor is present, or when the general condition of the liver is poor. When a healthy donor liver is transplanted to a patient, five-year survival is about 60%.
Researchers have reported some success in increasing life expectancy in liver cancer with more than one form of treatment. Chemotherapy and embolization, which means starving a tumor by stopping blood flow, can prolong the patient's life. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, chemotherapy is usually preferred.
When the disease is limited to the liver, treatment includes chemotherapy for the organ, with or without radiation therapy. Health professionals usually prescribe a combination of drugs, chemotherapy, and embolization to treat liver cancer. Their goal is to reduce the tumor, remove it or make it “starve”, limiting the blood supply.
If the disease progresses, life expectancy becomes shorter. The usual course of treatment in these cases involves treating the symptoms to make the patient more comfortable. Medication usually does not prolong life, but alleviates the pain associated with already common liver cancer.
Older people are more likely to develop liver cancer, and more men than women suffer from this disease.