Staging of Liver Cancer
Health care providers use a process called staging to see if the cancer has spread. Knowing the stage of the cancer is very important when deciding on treatment options. With liver cancer, treatment decisions can be more complicated because many patients also have liver damage. So health care providers also have to consider how well the liver is working before deciding on any treatment option.
Health care professionals in the United States use several different methods of liver cancer staging. One system is called the BCLC (Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer) system.
The BCLC staging system links the stage of the disease to a specific treatment strategy. This system looks at not only the stage of the cancer but also how well the liver is working and the general health of the patient. Health care providers also need to consider the impact of treatment when estimating life expectancy. Currently, the BCLC system is the only staging system that takes into account all of these factors and links the stage of liver cancer to a specific treatment strategy.
To find out if the liver cancer has spread to other parts of the body, health care providers may order a CT scan of the chest (to see if the cancer has spread to the lungs), as well as a bone scan (to see if the cancer has spread to bones), or a PET scan (positron emission tomography) for more detailed images.