Survival statistics for liver cancer

Survival statistics for liver cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person's chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain these statistics and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for liver cancer is 19%. This means that, on average, about 19% of people diagnosed with liver cancer will survive for at least 5 years.

Survival by stage

Survival varies with each stage of liver cancer. The following factors can also affect survival for liver cancer.

  • Liver cancer is not often found until it is at an advanced stage, when it can no longer be removed by surgery.
  • Having liver disease, such as cirrhosis, can affect survival.

Survival by stage of liver cancer is usually reported as median survival. Median survival is the length of time (usually months or years) after diagnosis or the start of treatment at which half of the people with this type of cancer are still alive. The other half will not live as long.

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the median survival of different stages of liver cancer. The following information comes from a variety of sources. It may include statistics from other countries that are likely to have similar outcomes as in Canada.

Liver cancer survival in the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) system

BCLC stage

Survival

0

Median 5-year survival is 80% to 90% for single tumours 2 cm or smaller, if treated with liver resection or radiofrequency ablation (RFA).

A Median 5-year survival is 50% to 70%, if treated with liver resection, liver transplant or RFA.

B

Median survival is 16 months. It may increase to 40 months with transarterial chemoembolization (TACE).

C

Median survival is 11 to 13 months with treatment and 6 to 8 months without treatment.

D

Median survival is 3 to 4 months.

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of cancer
  • the stage
  • certain characteristics of the cancer
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

Expert review and references