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July 19, 2021

What are the 4 stages of liver cancer, diagnosing and cancer staging system?

Liver cancer is one of the deadliest diseases worldwide and one of the most dangerous types of cancer; liver cancer has special conditions that you should know to overcome, so in this blog, you will learn more about liver structure, 4 stages of liver cancer, how to diagnose it, and what are the staging systems that used to know how advanced the cancer is.

Liver structure

The liver is the large solid organ in the body and is responsible for hundreds of functions. It consists of four lobes:

  1. The larger right lobe.
  2. The left lobe.
  3. The smaller caudate lobe.
  4. The quadrate lobe.

The falciform ligament divides the left and right lobes and links the liver with the abdominal wall. Further, doctors divide the liver lobes into eight parts which consist of thousands of lobules.

In the following, we show you the parts of the liver:

  • Common Hepatic Duct: It is a tube responsible for carrying bile out of the liver.
  • Falciform Ligament: It is a thin, sickle-shaped, fibrous structure that separates the 2 lobes of the liver and connects it to the ventral wall of the abdomen.
  • Glisson’s Capsule: It is the external fibrous layer that surrounds the liver and envelops lobules, bile ducts, portal vein, and hepatic artery.
  • Hepatic Artery: The main blood vessel extends the liver with oxygen-rich blood and supplies the duodenum and pancreas with oxygenated blood.
  • Hepatic Portal Vein: it is a vessel that moves blood from the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, gallbladder, and pancreas to the liver.
  • Lobes: they are the right and left lobes of the liver; each lobe consists of thousands of hexagonally-shaped lobules.
  • Lobules: Each lobule consists of numerous liver cells; the liver comprises approximately 1 million hepatic lobules.
  • Peritoneum: it is a membrane that covers the liver and forms the outer part of it.

Liver cancer stages:

So, what are the 4 stages of liver cancer? And why you should know the stage of your illness?

4 stages of liver cancer

Stage 1 liver cancer:

A small liver tumor hasn’t grown into blood vessels and hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites. Stage 1 has 2 subcategories:

  • Stage 1A: The tumor is 2 cm or smaller.
  • Stage 1B: The tumor is more significant than 2 cm.

The best treatment ways for stage 1 liver cancer:

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Surgical treatment.
  • Liver transplant.
  • Radiofrequency or microwave ablation.
  • Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI).

Stage 2 liver cancer:

There is one tumor more than 2 cm or several tumors that all are less than 5 cm. the tumor has grown into the liver’s blood vessels and hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant areas in the body.

The best treatment ways for stage 2 liver cancer:

  • Surgical treatment.
  • Liver transplant.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiofrequency or microwave ablation.

Stage 3 liver cancer:

It means that there are several tumors in your liver and divided into 2 subcategories:

  • Stage 3A: there is at least one tumor larger than 5 cm. the tumor hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or distant areas in the body.
  • Stage 3B: At least one tumor has grown in a portal or hepatic vein branch. Cancer hasn’t spread to lymph nodes or remote parts of the body.

The best treatment ways for stage 3 liver cancer:

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiofrequency or microwave ablation.
  • Targeted and immunotherapy cancer drugs.

Stage 4 liver cancer:

One or more several tumors have been found in the liver, and cancer may have spread to lymph nodes or distant areas. Also, it may spread to lungs or bones in this advanced stage. Stage 4 liver cancer has 2 subcategories:

Stage 4A: One or more several tumors have spread to lymph nodes but haven’t reached distant parts of the body.

Stage 4B: One or more several tumors have reached or not to lymph nodes but have spread to distant organs like bones or lungs.

The best treatment ways for stage 4 liver cancer:

  • Targeted and immunotherapy cancer drugs.

Liver cancer is a complicated type of cancer because of the damage it causes to the liver’s functions, which help operate many things like digestion, detoxification, and more.

Liver cancer severely impacts health and even may be life-threatening. Advanced and severe levels of liver cancer may require specific treatment options.

How to diagnose liver cancer?

Diagnosing liver cancer
Diagnosing liver cancer

There are some ways to diagnose cancer, such as:

  • Blood tests.
  • Imaging tests.
  • Remove and test a sample of liver tissue.

The next step after diagnosing liver cancer:

After diagnosing, doctors check the liver cancer stage to set the best treatment plan for your disease stage.

Staging tests help doctors determine the tumor’s location and size, so it is crucial to know the stage of your liver cancer.

So, how do doctors know the liver cancer stage? And what staging system do they use?

Cancer staging system:

Staging system
Staging system of liver cancer

What are cancer staging systems? It is a way doctors use to know how advanced the cancer is, where it spreads, its size (tumor size), and how much cancer affects the body.

Your cancer stage determines the therapy treatment plan you will go on; advanced cases of liver cancer usually need a different approach to be controllable than small tumors cause early on. All liver cancer types in the same stage are treated in similar ways.

Also, researchers use the cancer staging system to find new drugs and treatments that can control and help with some particular cancers. There are some types of cancer staging systems which are:

TNM Staging system:

It is the most common cancer staging system used to describe liver cancer in the united states. TNM doesn’t look at liver functions, so doctors use the BCLC system to describe primary liver cancer.

What are the criteria that the TNM system use:

T: It is for a tumor; T describes the size of the original tumor.

N: N is for nodes; it shows if cancer moves to the lymph nodes or not.

M: M is for metastasis; it shows if cancer spreads to distant body parts. Liver cancer usually spreads to lungs and bones

BCLC staging system:

This staging system focuses on some variables in liver cancer like tumor stage, functional status of the liver, performance and physical status, symptoms of liver cancer, and recommended treatment options.

BCLC stage groupings include:

  • Very early stage: Here, the lump is smaller than 2 cm, with no increased pressure in the portal vein or bilirubin levels. Doctors usually recommend surgical treatment in this stage.
  • Early stage: The lump is smaller than 5cm; there may be an increase in the portal vein pressure and bilirubin levels, or maybe not. Doctors recommend doing a liver transplant, surgical, or radiofrequency ablation treatment (RFA).
  • Intermediate stage: The tumor may have bigger size in this stage, or there may be more than one tumor in the organ. doctors recommend using regional therapies like transarterial chemoembolization. (see Types of Treatment).
  • Advanced stage: in this stage, the tumor invades the portal vein and spreads to other body parts like lymph nodes, bone, and lungs. Doctors recommend using targeted therapy in this stage. (See how to treat stage 4 liver cancer).
What is the Child-Pugh score?

The Child-Pugh score is part of the BCLC staging system that describes live functions using imaging and blood tests. Liver cirrhosis may be characterized using this scale too.

The Child-Pugh score measures 5 functions: blood levels of bilirubin, albumin’s blood levels, the time for blood clotting factors to work, Fluid levels in the abdomen, and checking if the liver disease is affecting the brain function or not.

Doctors use the child-pugh to determine the class of liver functions:
  • Class A: Normal functions of the liver.
  • Class B: some abnormalities in the way the liver works.
  • Class C: Severe abnormalities in liver function.

So, constant checking your health is not a choice, especially if you have any symptoms of liver cancer, do not hesitate to contact us; it is our mission to take care of your illness case.

To check your cancer stage and know more about your illness, we recommend consulting a professional expert from the UK to discuss your conditions and set the best suitable plan for your cancer stage. Don’t hesitate to contact our administration team if you have any inquiries.

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