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Staging and prognosis for secondary liver cancer

Staging

Staging is the process of working out how far a cancer has spread through the body.

Because the cancer has spread from another part of the body, secondary cancer in the liver is considered advanced cancer. It will be given a stage using the system for the primary cancer – for example, if it started in the bowel, it will often be staged using a system called TNM (tumour–nodes–metastasis).

For more details, see information on the primary cancer.

Prognosis

Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis with your doctor, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of the disease.

To work out your prognosis, your doctor will consider:

  • test results
  • the type of cancer
  • the size of the cancer
  • how fast the cancer is growing
  • how well you respond to treatment
  • other factors such as your age, fitness and overall health.

Doctors often use numbers (statistics) when considering someone’s prognosis. Statistics reflect the typical outcome of disease in large numbers of people. While statistics give doctors a general idea about a disease, they won’t necessarily reflect your specific situation.

Although most cases of secondary cancer in the liver can’t be cured, surgery and other treatments can keep many cancers under control for months or even many years. Whatever the prognosis, palliative treatment can relieve symptoms, such as pain, to improve quality of life. It can be used at any stage of advanced cancer.

Download our booklet ‘Living with Advanced Cancer’

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed June 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr David Yeo, Hepatobiliary/Transplant Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre and St George Hospitals, NSW; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Michael Coulson, Consumer; Dr Sam Davis, Interventional Radiologist, Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women‘s Hospital, QLD; Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Howard Liu, Radiation Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Lina Sharma, Consumer; Dr Graham Starkey, Hepato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Austin Hospital, VIC; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, ACT; Dr Michael Wallace, Western Australia Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital,