Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 400, Issue 6, pp 725–734 | Cite as

Tumor size is a major determinant of prognosis of resected stage I hepatocellular carcinoma

  • Wei-Ju Huang
  • Yung-Ming Jeng
  • Hong-Shiee Lai
  • Fang-Yu Bonnie Sheu
  • Po-Lin Lai
  • Ray-Hwang YuanEmail author
Original Article



The current American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) includes all solitary tumors without vascular invasion as stage I, regardless of tumor size. The aim of this study is to determine the prognostic significance of tumor size in stage I HCC patients.


A total of 230 stage I primary HCCs were selected retrospectively. Based on univariate and multivariate analyses, clinical and pathological factors correlated with 5-year disease-free survival (DFS) and 5-year overall survival (OS) were determined.


Univariate and multivariate analyses showed significant correlations of low serum α-fetoprotein levels (≤20 ng/ml), small tumor size (≤3 cm), wide resection margin (≥ 1 cm), and absence of cirrhotic liver with better DFS, while smaller tumor size, and wide resection margin with better OS. Of all the parameters, tumor size is the most statistically significant markers for DFS and OS. Interestingly, liver cirrhosis exerted prognostic significance in patients with small-size tumors, while resection margin exerted prognostic significance in patients with large-size tumors.


Our results indicated that tumor size is the most important determinant of DFS and OS in resected primary stage I HCC patients. Therefore, we advocate redefining solitary tumors of ≤3 cm as T1a disease and tumors >3 cm as T1b disease. This stratification of stage I HCC patients could aid in the determination of prognosis and the development of superior protocols for patient management. However, further analysis of big registry cohorts is needed to establish a common consensus.


Tumor size Disease-free survival Overall survival Hepatocellular carcinoma Tumor staging 


Disclosure of commercial interest


Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the subject of this study.

Author contributions

Study conception and design was done by WJH YMJ RHY. Acquisition of data was performed by FYBS PLL. Analysis and interpretation of data was conducted by WJH YMJ HSL RHY. Drafting of manuscript was written by WJH HSL. Critical revision of manuscript was made YMJ RHY.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Institute of Pathology, College of MedicineNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.Department of NursingHsin-Sheng College of Medical Care and ManagementLongtan TownshipTaiwan
  3. 3.Department of PathologyNational Taiwan University HospitalTaipeiTaiwan
  4. 4.Department of Pathology, College of MedicineNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  5. 5.Department of SurgeryNational Taiwan University HospitalTaipeiTaiwan
  6. 6.Department of Surgery, College of MedicineNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  7. 7.Department of Biomedical ScienceUniversity of Illinois College of MedicineRockfordUSA
  8. 8.Department of Integrated Diagnostics and TherapeuticsNational Taiwan University HospitalTaipeiTaiwan
  9. 9.Department of Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital and College of MedicineNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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