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Liver Cancer Stages

This page describes the stages of liver cancer for adults. The stage describes the extent of cancer in the body. Knowing the stage of liver cancer helps the doctor plan the best treatment.

To learn about liver cancer stages for children, see Stages of hepatoblastoma.

To learn about the tests and procedures used to diagnose and stage primary liver cancer, see Liver Cancer Diagnosis.

There are several staging systems for liver cancer. The Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) Staging System is widely used to stage primary liver cancer. The system is used to predict the patient’s chance of recovery and to plan treatment, based on the following:

  • whether the cancer has spread within the liver or to other parts of the body
  • how well the liver is working
  • the general health and wellness of the patient
  • the symptoms caused by the cancer

The BCLC staging system has five stages:

  • stage 0: very early
  • stage A: early
  • stage B: immediate
  • stage C: advanced
  • stage D: end-stage

For liver cancer in adults, stages are also grouped according to how the cancer may be treated:

  • Localized liver cancer has not spread outside the liver and can be removed by surgery. This includes BCLC stages 0, A, and B.
  • Locally advanced liver cancer has not spread from the liver to distant parts of the body but cannot be safely removed by surgery. This includes BCLC stage C.
  • Metastatic liver cancer is cancer that has spread from the liver to distant parts of the body. Metastatic liver cancer cannot be completely removed by surgery. This includes BCLC stage D. To learn more about metastatic cancer, see Metastatic Cancer: When Cancer Spreads.
  • Recurrent liver cancer is cancer that came back after treatment. The cancer may come back in the liver or in other parts of the body. To learn more about recurrent cancer, see Recurrent Cancer: When Cancer Comes Back.

To learn about other ways cancer stages can be described, see Cancer Staging.

To learn about treatment options, see Liver Cancer Treatment.

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