How Fatal Is Liver Cancer?

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The five-year survival rate for liver cancer found very early and not spread is 28 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. However, there are a number of individual factors that increase or decrease a person’s chances of survival, including whether he has pre-existing liver conditions.

The reason for such a low survival rate, even if the cancer is detected early, has a lot to do with a liver that is already damaged, explains the American Cancer Society. Many people who develop liver cancer are already suffering from another type of liver disease, such as cirrhosis. This causes the cancer to become inoperable. People without pre-existing liver conditions who are able to have surgery have a much higher survival rate, which is around 50 percent.

People with early stage liver cancer who are able to receive a liver transplant have an even higher survival rate, climbing upwards of 60 to 70 percent, notes the American Cancer Society. However, a majority of cases are not detected early. If the cancer spreads into surrounding organs and enters the lymph nodes, the survival rate for five years is only 7 percent. If the cancer spreads to distant parts of the body, only 2 percent of people survive five years or longer.