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    Adult Primary Liver Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Adult Primary Liver Cancer

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    If, despite the use of two imaging modalities, a nodule larger than 1 cm remains uncharacterized in a patient at high risk for HCC (i.e., with only one or no classic enhancement pattern), a liver biopsy can be considered.[5,22]

    Liver biopsy

    A liver biopsy may be performed when a diagnosis of HCC is not established by a dynamic imaging modality (three-phase CT or MRI) for liver nodules 1 cm or larger in high-risk patients.

    Natural History and Prognostic Factors

    The natural history of early tumors is poorly known because the majority of patients are treated. However, older reports have described 3-year survival rates of 13% to 21% without any specific treatment.[24,25] At present, only 10% to 23% of HCC patients may be surgical candidates for curative-intent treatment.[26,27] The 5-year overall survival rates for patients with early HCC who are undergoing liver transplant or liver resection are 44% to 78% and 27% to 70%, respectively.[28]

    The natural course of advanced-stage HCC is better known. Untreated patients with advanced disease usually survive less than 6 months.[29] The 1-year and 2-year survival rates of untreated patients in 25 randomized clinical trials were 10% to 72% and 8% to 50%, respectively.[7]

    Unlike most patients with solid tumors, prognosis of HCC patients is affected not only by the tumor stage at presentation but also by the underlying liver function. The following are main prognostic factors for HCC patients:

    • Anatomic extension of the tumor (i.e., tumor size, number of nodules, presence of vascular invasion, and extrahepatic spread).
    • Performance status.
    • Functional hepatic reserve based on a Child-Pugh score.[29,30,31]

    Related Summaries

    Other PDQ summaries containing information related to adult primary liver cancer include the following:

    • Childhood Liver Cancer
    • Liver (Hepatocellular) Cancer Screening

    References: 
     

    1. American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts and Figures 2014. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2014. Available online. Last accessed May 21, 2014.
    2. Altekruse SF, McGlynn KA, Reichman ME: Hepatocellular carcinoma incidence, mortality, and survival trends in the United States from 1975 to 2005. J Clin Oncol 27 (9): 1485-91, 2009.
    3. Llovet JM, Burroughs A, Bruix J: Hepatocellular carcinoma. Lancet 362 (9399): 1907-17, 2003.
    4. Bosch FX, Ribes J, Díaz M, et al.: Primary liver cancer: worldwide incidence and trends. Gastroenterology 127 (5 Suppl 1): S5-S16, 2004.
    5. Bruix J, Sherman M; American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases: Management of hepatocellular carcinoma: an update. Hepatology 53 (3): 1020-2, 2011.
    6. Llovet JM, Ricci S, Mazzaferro V, et al.: Sorafenib in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. N Engl J Med 359 (4): 378-90, 2008.
    7. Llovet JM, Bruix J: Systematic review of randomized trials for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma: Chemoembolization improves survival. Hepatology 37 (2): 429-42, 2003.
    8. Cammà C, Schepis F, Orlando A, et al.: Transarterial chemoembolization for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Radiology 224 (1): 47-54, 2002.
    9. Fattovich G, Giustina G, Schalm SW, et al.: Occurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma and decompensation in western European patients with cirrhosis type B. The EUROHEP Study Group on Hepatitis B Virus and Cirrhosis. Hepatology 21 (1): 77-82, 1995.
    10. Mair RD, Valenzuela A, Ha NB, et al.: Incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma among US patients with cirrhosis of viral or nonviral etiologies. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 10 (12): 1412-7, 2012.
    11. Bosch FX, Ribes J, Borràs J: Epidemiology of primary liver cancer. Semin Liver Dis 19 (3): 271-85, 1999.
    12. Beasley RP, Hwang LY, Lin CC, et al.: Hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatitis B virus. A prospective study of 22 707 men in Taiwan. Lancet 2 (8256): 1129-33, 1981.
    13. Beasley RP: Hepatitis B virus. The major etiology of hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer 61 (10): 1942-56, 1988.
    14. Sun CA, Wu DM, Lin CC, et al.: Incidence and cofactors of hepatitis C virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma: a prospective study of 12,008 men in Taiwan. Am J Epidemiol 157 (8): 674-82, 2003.
    15. Lok AS, Seeff LB, Morgan TR, et al.: Incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma and associated risk factors in hepatitis C-related advanced liver disease. Gastroenterology 136 (1): 138-48, 2009.
    16. Jaskiewicz K, Banach L, Lancaster E: Hepatic siderosis, fibrosis and cirrhosis: the association with hepatocellular carcinoma in high-risk population. Anticancer Res 17 (5B): 3897-9, 1997 Sep-Oct.
    17. Farinati F, Floreani A, De Maria N, et al.: Hepatocellular carcinoma in primary biliary cirrhosis. J Hepatol 21 (3): 315-6, 1994.
    18. Sun Z, Lu P, Gail MH, et al.: Increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in male hepatitis B surface antigen carriers with chronic hepatitis who have detectable urinary aflatoxin metabolite M1. Hepatology 30 (2): 379-83, 1999.
    19. Furuya K, Nakamura M, Yamamoto Y, et al.: Macroregenerative nodule of the liver. A clinicopathologic study of 345 autopsy cases of chronic liver disease. Cancer 61 (1): 99-105, 1988.
    20. Leoni S, Piscaglia F, Golfieri R, et al.: The impact of vascular and nonvascular findings on the noninvasive diagnosis of small hepatocellular carcinoma based on the EASL and AASLD criteria. Am J Gastroenterol 105 (3): 599-609, 2010.
    21. Khalili K, Kim TK, Jang HJ, et al.: Optimization of imaging diagnosis of 1-2 cm hepatocellular carcinoma: an analysis of diagnostic performance and resource utilization. J Hepatol 54 (4): 723-8, 2011.
    22. Sangiovanni A, Manini MA, Iavarone M, et al.: The diagnostic and economic impact of contrast imaging techniques in the diagnosis of small hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis. Gut 59 (5): 638-44, 2010.
    23. Khalili K, Kim TK, Jang HJ, et al.: Implementation of AASLD hepatocellular carcinoma practice guidelines in North America: two years of experience. [Abstract] Hepatology 48 (Suppl 1): A-128, 362A, 2008.
    24. Barbara L, Benzi G, Gaiani S, et al.: Natural history of small untreated hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis: a multivariate analysis of prognostic factors of tumor growth rate and patient survival. Hepatology 16 (1): 132-7, 1992.
    25. Ebara M, Ohto M, Shinagawa T, et al.: Natural history of minute hepatocellular carcinoma smaller than three centimeters complicating cirrhosis. A study in 22 patients. Gastroenterology 90 (2): 289-98, 1986.
    26. Shah SA, Smith JK, Li Y, et al.: Underutilization of therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma in the medicare population. Cancer 117 (5): 1019-26, 2011.
    27. Sonnenday CJ, Dimick JB, Schulick RD, et al.: Racial and geographic disparities in the utilization of surgical therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma. J Gastrointest Surg 11 (12): 1636-46; discussion 1646, 2007.
    28. Dhir M, Lyden ER, Smith LM, et al.: Comparison of outcomes of transplantation and resection in patients with early hepatocellular carcinoma: a meta-analysis. HPB (Oxford) 14 (9): 635-45, 2012.
    29. Okuda K, Ohtsuki T, Obata H, et al.: Natural history of hepatocellular carcinoma and prognosis in relation to treatment. Study of 850 patients. Cancer 56 (4): 918-28, 1985.
    30. Llovet JM, Brú C, Bruix J: Prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma: the BCLC staging classification. Semin Liver Dis 19 (3): 329-38, 1999.
    31. A new prognostic system for hepatocellular carcinoma: a retrospective study of 435 patients: the Cancer of the Liver Italian Program (CLIP) investigators. Hepatology 28 (3): 751-5, 1998.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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