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Liver Cancer Recurrence: Is it Possible?

Liver Cancer Recurrence: Is it Possible?

Fighting cancer requires willpower and efforts along with medicines and treatment. Such aggressive treatments and medicines consume you both physically and mentally. No doubt, treatments at the correct time or stage help kill cancer in the liver but there are chances of liver cancer recurrence.

In this article, you will be reading about cancer recurrence and everything related to liver cancer recurrence.

What is cancer recurrence?

Cancer recurrence is a term used when cancer returns after treatments or surgeries.

You are likely to develop cancer again when some cancer cells remain in the organs even after treatments or surgeries.

These cells can develop in the same place as before or might have migrated to other parts of the body. These cancer cells may silently multiply until you see the symptoms again.

For liver cancer recurrence, a few cancerous cells might have remained in the liver that causes cancer again.

It is very rare that you get new cancer that is completely unrelated to the first.

Causes of liver cancer recurrence

The major reason for liver cancer recurrence is the remains of small cancer cells that stay in the liver after the treatment. Over time, these small cancer cells grow and develop enough to cause issues again.

However, you must know that cancer may not always recur in the same organ. You might have to undergo a few tests to know where and when cancer recurs. Also, it will help to know the type of cancer.

Some types of cancer can have an expected pattern of recurrence. Cancer may develop in the following ways:

  • Local recurrence – Cancer that develops in the same organ of the body as primary cancer.
  • Regional recurrence – Cancer that develops near the previous cancer area.
  • Distant recurrence – Cancer that develops in another part of the body.

Cancer recurrence is called by the same name as the previous cancer, i.e, if you had liver cancer and after the treatment cancer develops in your lungs, it will be still called liver cancer.

Doctors call this condition metastatic liver cancer. Metastatic is defined as cancer that spreads to another part of the body.

Factors that contribute to liver cancer recurrence

Factors that contribute to liver cancer recurrence are:

  • The number of nodules
  • Presence of cirrhosis
  • Vascular involvement
  • Absence of capsule formation
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Intrahepatic metastases
  • Preoperative AFP
  • DNA aneuploid content
  • Size of the tumour
  • Tumour at the resection margin

What are the diagnostic tests that you are likely to undergo again?

Same as for the first time, early diagnosing for the second time will help prevent spread and progression.

A doctor will look at your health, carry out physical examination, and order tests to confirm liver cancer recurrence. Also, the doctor will check your eyes to see any yellowness and abdominal swelling. These two are indicators of liver issues.

If a doctor suspects liver cancer again, he/she will order further tests. The ones you went through for the first time such as:

  • Imaging scans: A CT scan or MRI will help a doctor to see the size and spread of cancer.
  • Laparoscopy: It is an outpatient surgical procedure where a doctor uses either general or local anaesthesia. A surgeon inserts a long, flexible tube with a small camera attached to the instrument. The camera helps the doctor to see the liver and the surrounding area. Laparoscopy helps the doctor to detect if there is a recurrence of cancer and how much damage it has made to the liver.
  • Viral hepatitis tests: The doctor will look if you are suffering from hepatitis B or C.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of the tumour is removed by the surgeon for analysis. The analysis reveals whether the tumour is cancerous or noncancerous.
  • Blood tests: These include tests for proportions of red and white blood cells and platelets, blood clotting, and levels of other substances in the blood.

According to these tests and surgical procedures, your doctor detects the stage, location, and recurrence of liver cancer.

It might be difficult for you to cope with the news of liver cancer recurrence. But what will work best for you during this time is self-motivation. You might be thinking that it’s easier said than done, but you have to cope up and gather all the motivation to fight back again.

Is cancer recurrence dangerous?

Cancer recurrence can be dangerous if neglected. Early diagnosis helps you to fight cancer effectively.

Hence, if you get tested and start treatment at the correct time, you can again defeat cancer and lead a desirable life. Ensure you are following all the guidelines that you followed before.

As you already have an idea of how to fight cancer, it might be easy for you to cope up. Follow medical advice and stay strong.

Is cancer recurrence frequent?

Not exactly! According to the Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Germany, researchers found that the morbidity rate or rate of cancer recurrence per cent varies from 19% to 52%.

Another study found that the frequency of cancer recurrence depends on the time of follow-up. Researchers found in different series that 43% to 65% of cancer survivors experience recurrence within 2 years of cancer removal. Further, up to 85 per cent of survivors experienced recurrence within 5 years.

Cancer development is restricted to the liver by 30% to 91%. However, multiple or diffuse patterns of intrahepatic recurrence can go up to 50%.

Researchers also found 13% to 26% chances of recurrence in extrahepatic recurrence in the bones and lungs – with or without intrahepatic recurrence.

Liver cancer recurrence is possible and it is also possible that you can defeat it again. Ensure you get proper diagnosis and tests that will help detect cancer, type of cancer, and location of cancer.

It is understandable that it is upsetting to find cancer recur but just remember, you had fought it once and won – you can do it this time too! All you have to do is motivate yourself to effectively undergo all the treatments, therapies, surgeries, and medicines once again.

Learn more about liver cancer here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Resection of recurrent liver cancer/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6910/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Treatments for recurrent liver cancer/https://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/liver/treatment/recurrent/?region=nu/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Living as a Liver Cancer Survivor/https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/after-treatment/follow-up.html/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Liver Cancer Recurrence/https://moffitt.org/cancers/liver-hepatocellular-cancer/recurrence/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Dealing With Cancer Recurrence/https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/dealing-cancer-recurrence/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Adult Primary Liver Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version/https://surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions–procedures/liver-cancer-(hepatocellular-carcinoma).aspx/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Dealing With Cancer Recurrence/https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/dealing-cancer-recurrence/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Repeat hepatectomy for primary liver cancer/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6919/#:~:text=Several%20factors%20have%20been%20involved,capsule%20formation%20(1%2C%202%2C/Accessed on 12/05/2020

Resection of recurrent liver cancer/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6910/#:~:text=Interval%20between%20liver%20resection%20and,(Kaplan%2DMeier%20analysis)./Accessed on 12/05/2020

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Written by Nikita Bhalla Updated Jun 10
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel