Liver Cancer

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Liver cancer survival rates

Survival rates tell you what part of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. These numbers can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some people will want to know the survival rates for their cancer type and stage, and some people won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 50% means that an estimated 50 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

But remember, the 5-year relative survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare people with cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type and stage of cancer is 50%, it means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 50% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you. Your doctor can tell you how these numbers apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your particular situation.

Survival rates for liver cancer

The numbers below come from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, and are based on patients who were diagnosed with liver cancer (hepatocellular type) between 2005 and 20011.

The SEER database does not divide liver cancer survival rates by AJCC TNM stages. Instead, it groups cancer cases into summary stages:

  • Localized means the cancer is still confined to the liver, and includes stages I, II, and some stage III cancers. This includes a wide range of cancers, some of which are easier to treat than others. The 5-year relative survival rate for people with localized liver cancer is about 30.5%.
  • Regional means the cancer has grown into nearby organs or has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and includes stages IIIC and IVA cancers. For regional stage liver cancer, the 5-year survival rate is about 10.7%.
  • Distant means that the cancer has spread to distant organs or tissues and is the same as stage IVB. The 5-year relative survival rate for distant stage liver cancer is about 3.1%.
  • In general, survival rates are higher for people who can have surgery to remove their cancer, regardless of the stage. For example, studies have shown that patients with small, resectable tumors who do not have cirrhosis or other serious health problems are likely to do well if their cancers are removed. Their overall 5-year survival is over 50%. For people with early-stage liver cancers who have a liver transplant, the 5-year survival rate is in the range of 60% to 70%.


    Last Medical Review: 03/31/2016
    Last Revised: 04/28/2016