Stage 4 Liver Cancer Prognosis
Cancer in the liver is a serious illness that affects an increasing number of people. As the largest, major organ in the body, the liver is responsible for cleaning out toxins generated from the blood. It also process and store energy.
Sadly, diagnosis of the disease at its end stages makes it harder to treat, especially if the cancer has already spread. Liver transplant is often the sole option to improve chances of survival in the last stages of liver cancer. Stage 4 liver cancer prognosis, for various reasons, is not as good as the outlook when the illness is still at its early stages.
What is Liver Cancer Stage 4
Stage 4 liver cancer occurs when the cancer has metastasized or spread to the body’s other organs, such as the lungs or bones and in the lymph nodes. Stage 4 cancer of the liver is further divided into two other stages.
• Stage 4A – American Cancer Society (ACS) characterizes this stage with more number of tumors spreading into nearby organs. The blood vessels or lymph nodes may already have been affected, but the cancer has not yet reached other areas or organs in the body.
• Stage 4B – This is considered to be the end or final stage of cancer in the liver. Cancerous tumors or cells can be found in different parts or organs of the body. Liver cancer cells carried by the blood may have spread to the lungs or bones of the patient. The size of tumors at this stage may vary. This is the most difficult stage of the illness for viable treatment.
Symptoms of Stage 4 Liver Cancer
Symptoms may not usually show during the early stages of the disease. This is probably why there are patients who are diagnosed when the liver cancer is its most advanced stages. There are easily detectable signs and symptoms of stage 4 cancer of the liver that include:
• Atypical weight loss
• Chalky or whitish hue of stools
• Constant fatigue
• Lack of appetite
• Liver enlargement
• Swelling of the abdomen
• Upper abdominal pain
Factors to Consider in Liver Cancer Prognosis Stage 4
Stage 4 liver cancer prognosis may vary for each patient given certain factors. While the disease’s prognosis at this stage may be poor, it does not have to follow that survival rates can be determined with exact precision. There are cases when patients with the shortest term outlook defied the prognosis to survive a little longer than predicted.
Factors that may influence the prognosis include:
• Overall health of the liver
• Mental and physical health
• Performance status (This is determined by physicians who use a grading system to measure the ability to cope both with the disease and treatment.)
Liver Cancer Prognosis at Stage 4
Prognosis for someone with stage 4 cancer of the liver is poor. Complete surgical removal of the cancer in the liver at the early stages may only have about a 10 to 20% success rates. Generally, life expectancy of stage 4 liver cancer patients is determined to be somewhere up to six months or less than a year.
However, there are instances when patients have survived longer than the original prognosis. The best prognosis may be possible for those who successfully undergo liver transplants. 80% of liver cancer patients who underwent transplant surgery survive for up to four years.
Stage 4 Liver Cancer Treatments
Treatment options for stage 4 cancer of the liver may not be as extensive as when the disease is at its early stages. Giving comforting and supportive care may be more of the focus in stage 4 liver cancer treatment. This is to help in easing the symptoms which may include a lot of discomfort or pain.
• Chemotherapy – This procedure aims to destroy cancer cells or to attempt shrinking a tumor that is not removable by surgery. The goal would be to alleviate or control symptoms by slowing the cancer’s growth.
• Palliative – This form of treatment mainly offers relief even if the cancer is deemed incurable. It may or may not aid in making the patient live longer. But it would at least some measure of comfort. Some of the palliative treatments that may be provided are painkillers like morphine and medications that would ease the effects of symptoms. Targeted drug and radiation therapies as well as chemotherapy are likewise part of palliative treatments.
• Radiation therapy – This treatment aims to shrink or slow down the growth of tumors by using powerful energy beams.
• Targeted drug therapy – In this type of treatment, the sorafenib tosylate (Nexavar) drug may be used to obstruct the tumor’s growth.
Unfortunately, stage 4 liver cancer prognosis is not good. A liver transplant is often the best option. However, this is often not possible. If surgical removal of the tumor is also not viable, the focus should be more on making the patient”s final months as comfortable as possible.