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Low Proportion of Cirrhosis Patients Screened for HCC

Specialists more likely to screen for hepatocellular carcinoma than primary care doctors

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer than 20 percent of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who have previously had cirrhosis receive regular screening in the three years before being diagnosed with HCC, and those seeing only primary care doctors are least likely to be screened, according to research published in the July issue of Hepatology.

Jessica A. Davila, Ph.D., of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues conducted a population-based cohort study of patients in the United States over the age of 65 years to determine surveillance patterns in patients with HCC who were previously diagnosed with cirrhosis. The study included 1,873 HCC patients with a prior diagnosis of cirrhosis.

The researchers found that only 17 percent of the HCC patients had received regular surveillance in the three years before their HCC diagnosis, while 38 percent had received inconsistent surveillance. In the subset of 541 patients who had carried a diagnosis of cirrhosis for three or more years before HCC diagnosis, 29 percent received regular surveillance. Patients who received regular surveillance were more likely to have higher incomes and to live in urban areas. Also, patients of a gastroenterologist/hepatologist or an academically affiliated physician were 4.5-fold and 2.8-fold more likely, respectively, to be screened regularly than those seen only by a primary care physician.

"Future studies are needed to evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and barriers for HCC surveillance and to develop appropriate, targeted interventions to increase the dissemination of this practice," the authors write.

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