Liver Cancer Reccurence

Words to Know

Remission means that after treatment, tests show that there is no longer cancer in the body, though some undetectable cancer cells may remain.

Partial remission means that there’s been a decrease in the size of the tumor or the extent of cancer in the body in response to treatment.

Progression is the spread of cancer or an increase in tumor size. If cancer comes back within a year after treatment ends, it’s often considered a progression rather than a recurrence, because the cancer may never have been dormant.

Even after successfully treating liver cancer, the disease sometimes returns because undetected cancer cells remained in the body, even though the tumor in the liver appears to have been completely removed or destroyed. In some cases, if your liver is damaged from other conditions such as cirrhosis — which may have caused your first bout with cancer — these damaged cells may eventually lead to a new instance of liver cancer. However, it’s also possible to have a recurrence in a different part of your body, such as the bones.

Most recurrences occur within the first two years after treatment, although cancer can come back many years after the initial treatment. At this time, it is very difficult to cure liver cancer that has returned.

Learn about:

Types of recurrence

There are three different types of recurrence, based on where the cancer returns in the body:

  • Local recurrence means that the cancer has returned to the same site as the original cancer or very close to it
  • Regional recurrence means that the cancer has developed in the lymph nodes near the liver
  • Distant recurrence means that the cancer has spread to distant tissues and organs, such as the bone, bone marrow, lungs, breast, or brain. This is also called secondary, or metastatic, liver cancer

Risk of recurrence

When Cancer Comes Back

Learn how to harness your resources and experience to fight recurrent cancer in Your Guide to Cancer Care.

The risk of recurrence is different for everyone, and depends on the stage of the original cancer, the treatment you received, how long it has been since your treatment, and many other factors.

If cancer returns, it doesn’t mean that you caused it to recur or that the original treatment you received was inappropriate. Cancer can come back even if you do everything you can to stay healthy, such as going to every check-up with your doctor, eating well, and exercising. It’s important not to blame yourself.

Treatment for recurrent liver cancer

If you have recurrent liver cancer, your doctor may recommend surgery if it’s feasible, though recurrent cases of liver cancer are usually unresectable.

If surgery is not possible, your doctor may recommend a combination of therapies to slow the progress of the disease, such as chemoembolization, percutaneous ethanol injection, and/or chemotherapy.

You can always receive palliative care, which are therapies used to help ease pain and relieve symptoms.

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