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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2004 Nov;37(11):1689-705. Epub 2004 Oct 26.

Diagnosis, staging and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1Divisão de Gastroenterologia, Departamento de Clínica Médica, Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo Brasil.


Hepatocellular carcinomas are aggressive tumors with a high dissemination power. An early diagnosis of these tumors is of great importance in order to offer the possibility of curative treatment. For an early diagnosis, abdominal ultrasound and serum alpha-fetoprotein determinations at 6-month intervals are suggested for all patients with cirrhosis of the liver, since this disease is considered to be the main risk factor for the development of the neoplasia. Helicoidal computed tomography, magnetic resonance and/or hepatic arteriography are suggested for diagnostic confirmation and tumor staging. The need to obtain a fragment of the focal lesion for cytology and/or histology for a diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma depends on the inability of imaging methods to diagnose the lesion. Several classifications are currently available for tumor staging in order to determine patient prognosis. All take into consideration not only the stage of the tumor but also the degree of hepatocellular dysfunction, which is known to be the main factor related to patient survival. Classifications, however, fail to correlate treatment with prognosis and cannot suggest the ideal treatment for each tumor stage. The Barcelona Classification (BCLC) attempts to correlate tumor stage with treatment but requires prospective studies for validation. For single tumors smaller than 5 cm or up to three nodules smaller than 3 cm, surgical resection, liver transplantation and percutaneous treatment may offer good anti-tumoral results, as well as improved patient survival. Embolization or chemoembolization are therapeutic alternatives for patients who do not benefit from curative therapies.

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