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Liver Cancer Life Expectancy

Category: Liver Cancer

In order to determine liver cancer life expectancy, many important factors have to be taken into consideration. Patient’s medical state before diagnosing, type of cancer, its stage, and type of treatment are only some of them.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common malignancy of the liver tissue. Its causes are often viral hepatitis (B and C), alcoholism, smoking, etc. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the fifth most frequent cancer in general population and it represents 6% of all cancers diagnosed in persons all over the world.

Life expectancy of this cancer is unfortunately very low, and a 5-year survival is usually not higher than 15%.  It leads to death within 5-20 months from the initial diagnosis. Prognosis might not have been that bad if persons with liver cancer had the rest of the liver tissue healthy and functional. However, in most patients suffering from liver cancer, the tissue of the liver is irreversibly changed by fibrosis, cirrhosis, and other conditions, which significantly lowers the life expectancy.
Diagram shows survival rate based on treatment - chemotherapy or radiofrequency ablation
As mentioned above, the chosen treatment option has a great influence on survival rates. For example, it is statistically shown that radiofrequency ablation has the greatest success, with 1 – year survival of 96.6%, 3 – year survival of 80.5%, and 5 – year survival of 60.2%. On the other hand, chemotherapy has the lowest survival with 1 – year survival of 13% and 5 – year survival of 0%.

Stage of the tumor at the moment of establishing the diagnosis is a very important factor for predicting the life expectancy and outcomes of the treatment. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database of National Cancer Institute has published the estimation of 5 – year survival rates for specific stages of liver cancer. For localized cancer (present only in liver tissue and do not affect other organs), the 5 – year survival rate is 27.7%. If the cancer has spread in the regional lymph nodes and organs, the survival rate is 10.1%. In patients with metastases in distant organs, the estimated survival rate is 2.7%.
5 year survival rate based on stages. Liver Cancer
These data are estimations based on information derived from large number of cases. For an individual, these numbers should be only understood as statistical estimations and they cannot predict what will happen in any particular case. There are merely used to track the increasing efficacy of treatment methods, and to explain more clearly the image of global burden of liver cancer. Scientists are working hard on new and more efficient treatment options, so hopefully, in the near future, there will be more opportunities for patients with liver cancer.


Mavros, M.N., Mayo, S.C., Hyder, O., Pawlik, T.M. (2012). A systematic review: treatment and prognosis of patients with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma. J Am Coll Surg. 215(6):820-30.
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