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Screening for hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Medicine, University of Toronto and The Toronto Hospital, Canada.


Screening for hepatocellular carcinoma has become widely practised in the management of patients with end-stage liver disease. However, the theoretical basis for this practice is largely lacking. Issues such as the selection of the target population and the correct method of confirming positive screening tests have yet to be resolved. Complicating the assessment of screening strategies is the poor literature on comparing different forms of therapy. Nonrandomized, uncontrolled studies that do not account for lead-time bias make it frequently impossible to know whether an applied treatment has really improved survival. Despite these difficulties, screening is reality, and strategies have to be devised to efficiently screen patients, find small tumours and apply effective treatments. Some practical strategies are discussed.

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