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Gastroenterology. 2018 Oct;155(4):1128-1139.e6. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.06.079. Epub 2018 Jul 5.

No Association Between Screening for Hepatocellular Carcinoma and Reduced Cancer-Related Mortality in Patients With Cirrhosis.

Author information

1
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
2
Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington.
3
Division of General Internal Medicine, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System and University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
4
Division of Gastroenterology, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System and University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
5
Division of Gastroenterology, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and University of California, San Diego, California.
6
Research and Development, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle, Washington.
7
Division of Gastroenterology, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System and University of Washington, Seattle, Washington; Research and Development, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle, Washington. Electronic address: georgei@medicine.washington.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND & AIMS:

Screening patients with cirrhosis for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been recommended. We conducted a matched case-control study within the US Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system to determine whether screening by abdominal ultrasonography (USS) and/or by measuring serum level of α-fetoprotein (AFP) was associated with decreased cancer-related mortality in patients with cirrhosis.

METHODS:

We defined cases (n = 238) as patients with cirrhosis who died of HCC from January 1, 2013 through August 31, 2015 and had been in VA care with a diagnosis of cirrhosis for at least 4 years before the diagnosis of HCC. We matched each case to 1 control (n = 238), defined as a patient with cirrhosis who did not die of HCC and had been in VA care for at least 4 years before the date of the matched case's HCC diagnosis. Controls were matched to cases by year of cirrhosis diagnosis, race and ethnicity, age, sex, etiology of cirrhosis, Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score, and VA medical center. We identified all USS and serum AFP tests performed within 4 years before the date of HCC diagnosis in cases or the equivalent index date in controls and determined by chart extraction (blinded to case or control status) whether these tests were performed for screening.

RESULTS:

There were no significant differences between cases and controls in the proportions of patients who underwent screening USS (52.9% vs 54.2%), screening measurement of serum AFP (74.8% vs 73.5%), screening USS or measurement of serum AFP (81.1% vs 79.4%), or screening USS and measurement of serum AFP (46.6% vs 48.3%) within 4 years before the index date, with or without adjusting for potential confounders. There also was no difference in receipt of these screening tests within 1, 2, or 3 years before the index date.

CONCLUSIONS:

In a matched case-control study of the VA health care system, we found that screening patients with cirrhosis for HCC by USS, measurement of serum AFP, either test, or both tests was not associated with decreased HCC-related mortality. We encourage additional case-control studies to evaluate the efficacy of screening for HCC in other health care systems, in which available records are sufficiently detailed to enable identification of the indication for USS and AFP tests.

KEYWORDS:

Liver Cancer; Liver Transplantation; Surveillance; Survival

PMID:
29981779
PMCID:
PMC6180323
[Available on 2019-10-01]
DOI:
10.1053/j.gastro.2018.06.079
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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