Liver cancer stages
The stage of a cancer describes where a cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body. Basically, it helps oncologists to determine how serious the cancer is and what’s the best way to treat it.
Staging of liver cancer is usually based on the results of the physical exam, biopsies and imaging tests (ultrasound, CT or MRI scan, etc.), also called a clinical stage.
Progression of liver cancer can be divided into four stages:
- Stage 1: The onset or liver cancer first stage is when tumor has not spread to another organ or location. At this early stage, the cancer or a tumor is still inside the liver.
- Stage 2: During this stage, either there are several small tumors in the liver or there is one tumor that has reached a blood vessel.
- Stage 3: Liver cancer third stage is little tricky as this stage has three subcategories:
- Stage IIIA: During this stage, there are several tumors with at least one that is larger than five centimeters. The cancer has not yet spread to other parts yet.
- Stage IIIB: There are several tumors and at least one of them branches out to the portal vein or the hepatic vein. The cancer has not yet spread to other organs or distant sites.
- Stage IIIC: The tumor has either grown into another organ or into the outer covering of the liver but it has still not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.
- Stage 4: Liver cancer stage 4 or the advanced stage is when the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or nearby blood vessels or organs. Advanced liver cancer often does not metastasize, but if it does, it may spread to lungs and bones.
Once a doctor has diagnosed and identified the stage of cancer, a person will start receiving treatment accordingly.
Liver cancer classification
Formal staging system often helps onco-specialists to determine a patient’s prognosis and decide a treatment plan. And therefore, doctors often classify liver cancers based on whether or not they can be resected or removed by surgery completely.
Potentially resectable or transplantable cancers
If the patient is healthy enough for surgery, these cancers can be either removed surgically or can be treated with a liver transplant. This would include most Stage I and some Stage II cancer patients, especially the ones who do not have liver cirrhosis or other serious medical problems.
Cancers that have not spread to the lymph nodes or distant organs but at the same time these cannot be removed surgically. This includes cancers that are close to the area where the liver meets the main arteries, veins and bile ducts.
Inoperable cancer with only local disease
The cancer is small, but the patient isn’t healthy for surgery. This could be because the non-cancerous part of the liver is not healthy. It could also mean that the patient has serious medical problems that makes surgery unsafe.
Advanced (metastasis) cancers
Cancers that have spread to the liver through other parts of the body where there had originated are classified as advanced (metastasis) cancer. These would include the last stage or stage 4 cancers. Such advanced liver cancers are difficult to be treated with surgery.