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  • Staging and prognosis of liver cancer



    Working out whether the cancer has spread from the primary cancer site – and if so, how far – is called staging. This helps your doctor recommend the best treatment for you.

    The staging systems for most types of cancer depend only on the extent of the cancer, but liver cancer is complicated by the fact that most patients have damage to the rest of their liver along with the cancer. This also affects treatment options and prognosis.

    The different stages of cancer are based on how far away from the original tumour site the cancer is found.

    Stage 1 and stage 2 tumours are, generally, confined to the liver.
    Stage 3 and stage 4 describes cancer that has spread away from liver.


    Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of your disease. Factors used to assess your prognosis include:

    • test results
    • the type of cancer, where it is in the body, and the rate of growth
    • how well you respond to treatment
    • your age and fitness
    • your medical history.

    Doctors often use numbers (statistics) when considering someone’s prognosis. While statistics give doctors a general idea about a disease, they don’t necessarily show what will happen in your situation.

    If surgery or transplant is an option for primary liver cancer, these treatments usually offer a good chance of cure. Other treatments for primary liver cancer and secondary cancer in the liver may enable you to live for much longer than if you were to have no treatment.

    This website page was last reviewed and updated July 2017.

    Information reviewed by: Dr Benjamin Thomson, Hepato-pancreato-biliary Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Joyce Bonello, Cancer Care Coordinator – GIT, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Carol Cameron, Cancer Nurse Coordinator Upper GI, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network; Karen Hall, Clinical Nurse Cancer Services Division, Flinders Medical Centre, and Cancer Council Helpline Nurse, SA; Robyn Hartley, Consumer; Mamta Porwal, Project Coordinator, B Positive Project, Cancer Council NSW; Chris Rivett, Clinical Nurse Oncology, Western Hospital, and Cancer Council Helpline Nurse, SA; and Dr Kellee Slater, Hepatobiliary, General and Liver Transplant Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD.

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