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Alcoholic liver cirrhosis. Screening for hepatocellular carcinoma in liver cirrhosis

Alcoholic liver cirrhosis. Screening for hepatocellular carcinoma in liver cirrhosis

Presse Medicale 30(23): 1164-1169

HIGH INCIDENCE: Because of the high incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with cirrhosis (3 to 5% per year) and the fact that curative treatment is currently available only for small sized tumors careful screening is warranted in this high risk population. Earlier screening attempts produced disappointing results in terms of cure and survival, particularly in Europe. Progress in ultrasonography, a better understanding of the risk of developing HCC, and most importantly the advent of local percutaneous treatments have greatly affected the data which should be reexamined. SCREENING METHODS: Patients with cirrhosis, particularly alcoholic or viral cirrhosis, should undergo regular ultrasound examinations, every six months for most screening protocols although the best timing remains unknown. Assay of serum alpha-fetoprotein is of limited use due to its low sensitivity and specificity. Diagnosis of HCC is basically based on helicoidal computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging findings, with or without pathological proof (ultrasound-guided biopsy) that may be difficult to obtain. A probabilistic diagnosis is therefore retained if necessary, based on the presence of risk factors and arterial hypervascularization of a liver nodule. EARLY TREATMENT: With ultrasound screening, the diagnosis of HCC can generally be established early, when curative transplantation, resection or local percutaneous destruction are still feasible. The percutaneous methods use chemical or physical agents to destroy the tumor. There are few contraindications so curative treatment can be proposed for large number of patients. Large-scale prospective studies will be completed in the upcoming years and are expected to provide evidence validating the principle of screening and early treatment.

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Accession: 045198118

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PMID: 11505839

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