Is Liver Metastasis A Serious Condition?
Liver metastases are tumors that have spread to the liver, but come from other organs in the body.
Cancer cells found in metastatic liver cancer are not true liver cells, but are cells in the part of the body where the primary cancer begins. Most of the time, liver cancer is secondary.
In general, when looking at them under a microscope, the metastatic cancer cells look the same as the original cancer cells. In addition, the metastatic tumor cells and the original cancer cells usually have certain common characteristics, such as the presence of certain proteins or specific alterations of the chromosome.
Is Liver Metastasis A Serious Condition?
The liver is the second most common organ with metastasis (spread of cancer), after the lymph nodes. Liver metastases have been found in 30 to 70% of patients suffering from lethal cancer.
In the Western world, liver metastases are more common than primary liver cancer.
Liver metastases are more frequent in patients between the ages of 50 and 70 compared with the elderly.
Liver metastases only develop if a person already has cancer. Some types of cancer, such as gastrointestinal cancer, are more likely than others that spread to the liver. Tumors that can spread to the liver come from: Pancreas, breast, gallbladder and bile duct, colorectal, stomach, esophagus, lung, skin (melanoma), ovary (ovarian cancer) and eye.
Brain tumors are the only ones that do not produce liver metastases. The cancer usually spreads to the liver because it creates an adequate environment for the growth of cancer cells.
The openings in the walls of the blood vessels of the liver allow cancer cells to approach the functional cells of the liver (hepatocytes).
The liver has good blood circulation and provides the cancer cells with the nutrients and oxygen needed for growth.
Evolution of Liver Metastases
Liver metastases are a foreign tissue that grows inside the liver. These formations can increase in size or infiltrate other organs (spread through the surrounding tissues). The metastases grow and compress the surrounding liver tissue.
In general, a layer of connective tissue forms around the metastasis and the surrounding tissue degrades. Large metastases can compress branches of the portal vein.
Since liver metastases grow very rapidly, they can become too large for the nutrients transported by the blood flow, which causes the death of the central part of the tissue.
Prognosis of Liver Metastasis
The prognosis for patients with liver metastases from the onset of symptoms is about 18 months for a solitary metastasis and only 3 months if the liver is severely affected.
There have been cases of patients with histologically proven liver metastases who live more than 5 years (the prognosis of a cancer can be 10-15 years).
The average survival for people suffering from non-small cell lung cancer in the fourth stage (metastatic) is about 8 months, although some cases of long-term survival have been reported in patients with lung cancer and liver metastases.
The median survival time for people with small cell lung cancer metastases is 2-4 months without treatment and 6-12 months with treatment.
There is a possibility that life expectancy improves with a liver transplant and survival increases to 5 years in 75% of patients. However, liver cancer should be diagnosed at an early stage.
Liver transplantation is also an option when a person receives an early diagnosis of cancer and liver metastasis.
If the cancer is secondary, sooner or later the cancer cells attack the new transplanted liver.
Survival rates are low, even with a transplant. Surgical resection may improve the chances of survival, although this option is only indicated when the tumors only affect the tumor focus or the liver area.
Liver metastasis is a very serious condition. In cases where intervention is possible, life expectancy increases considerably. There is a 75% chance that the person will survive another year, 50% will resist another 3 years and 30% will survive at least 5 years.
In addition, with treatments such as chemotherapy and liver transplantation, an increase in the survival rate can be achieved.