Stages of Adult Primary Liver Cancer
Key Points for This Section
- After adult primary liver cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the liver or to other parts of the body.
- There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
- The following stages are used for adult primary liver cancer:
- For adult primary liver cancer, stages are also grouped according to how the cancer may be treated. There are 3 treatment groups:
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the liver or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
- PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
- Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen to check for signs of disease. Small incisions (cuts) are made in the wall of the abdomen and a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same or other incisions to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples for biopsy.
The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:
- Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
- Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
- Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.
When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.
In stage II, one of the following is found:
- one tumor that has spread to nearby blood vessels; or
- more than one tumor, none of which is larger than 5 centimeters.
Stage III is divided into Stage IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.
- In stage IIIA, one of the following is found:
- more than one tumor larger than 5 centimeters; or
- one tumor that has spread to a major branch of blood vessels near the liver.
- In stage IIIB, there are one or more tumors of any size that have either:
- spread to nearby organs other than the gallbladder; or
- broken through the lining of the peritoneal cavity.
- In stage IIIC, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
In stage IV, cancer has spread beyond the liver to other places in the body, such as the bones or lungs. The tumors may be of any size and may also have spread to nearby blood vessels and/or lymph nodes.