a man sits on clouds in the sky as he stares at a liver with hepatocellular carcinoma and ponders

Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Support, Life Expectancy, and Wellness

This article is not intended to give or replace medical advice from a qualified health practitioner and is to be used for informational purposes only. If you have concerns about your health, are feeling unwell, or have sudden new symptoms developing please contact a health professional you trust.

How Hepatitis C Can Lead to Liver Cancer
Hepatocellular Carcinoma Stages and Diagnosis

Life expectancy and prognosis

Prognosis means 'outcome or expected outcome' when using that term in the medical field. Prognosis is based on dozens of different factors. For example, a way to measure prognosis is to look at what others (who had the same disease or illness) have experienced and comparing that to the current patients experience. Scientists and researchers use these experiences and data collected from people who experienced the same illness to further understand the illness.1

Survival rates are measured in terms of the number of people still living 5 years after initial (or recurring) diagnosis. Relative survival rates use the values of disease specific survival rates and compare them to the survival rates of the general public.1 What that means is that even though the number is not completely accurate. It also means that we can use data on survival of a specific disease and compare it to the general population survival rate. This gives scientists a better understanding of how dangerous or deadly an illness is.1

What are the survival rates for liver cancer?

Survival rates for hepatocellular carcinoma are very low.2 The 5 year survival rate globally, as of 2020, for hepatocellular carcinoma (both males and females) is estimated to be around 18%. (To visualize this, imagine you have 100 people standing in a room. After five years there are only 18 left.)3,4

There are many actions and lifestyle choices that can make HCC prognosis better or worse. These play a large role in determining an individuals prognosis or life expectancy. It is very important to remember that although this is the current available information of HCC, its not a guarantee for every individual who will be diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma in 2021.4

Factors such as cirrhosis, presence of pre-existing conditions or diseases that affect the liver, alcohol consumption, age, race, and gender all play a role in determining individual prognosis with an HCC diagnosis.4 Lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and mood also can affect the severity just as much as pre-existing conditions or diseases.

Finding support and wellness services

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-ending illness can be a devastating and often depressing experience for many people. This is completely understandable and part of the process of coming to terms with an illness that can or will end your life.

There is not a 'one size fits all' piece of advice for these types of experiences, but many persons who have had cancer or are going to die have reported finding comfort and solace in seeking support from peers, formal support groups, or with connecting with loved ones. This has obviously become difficult because of the global pandemic and restrictions that accompany it; However, there are many online resources available to address health and wellness when living with cancer.

Accessing services in-person or even online may not be possible in some situations. This is especially likely if the person with HCC may be experiencing violence, substance use, poverty, or low literacy and computer literacy rates. Transportation, location, and availability of services generally are all very real barriers people face. These situations can make a diagnosis like hepatocellular carcinoma even more difficult. If you or someone you care about may be experiencing violence or systemic barriers while living with HCC, there are resources that may be able to assist you.

For assistance finding local support services you can reach out to one or more of the following listed organizations below:

In the US: https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/finding-social-support-and-information/support-groups

In Canada: https://www.cancer.ca/en/region-selector-page/

International Database of Cancer Support Services: https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/finding-social-support-and-information/international-patient-information

There are many more resources available that are easily found with a quick online search. If one resource doesn’t work for you, please don’t be afraid to try something different that works for you!

Conclusion

There is a lot of information on hepatocellular carcinoma, but not all of it is equitable or accessible to all. Equitable distribution of healthcare information would mean information being available for all levels of comprehension, in all formats, and if barriers such as literacy and comprehension are present, it should not be a detriment to whether or not a person receives the health information they deserve.

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