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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a major health problem worldwide. The incidence of HCC is increasing in Europe and in the United States. HCC is currently the leading cause of death among cirrhotic patients. Cirrhosis is the strongest and the most common risk factor for HCC. Surveillance for HCC is widely practiced and can be recommended for certain at-risk groups. Among serological screening test, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is the best known (cut-off 20 ng/mL, sensitivity 60%, specificity 91%). The radiological screening test most widely used is ultrasonography (sensitivity 65—80%, specificity >90%). The tests used to diagnose HCC include radiology, biopsy and AFP. Detection of hepatic mass within a cirrhotic liver is highly suspicious of HCC. If AFP is greater than 200 ng/mL and the radiological appearance of the mass is suggestive for HCC, the likelihood that the lesion is HCC is high. The Barcelona-Clinic-Liver-Cancer staging system identifies patients with early HCC who may benefit from curative therapies, those at intermediate or advanced disease stage who may benefit from palliative treatments, as well as those at end-stage with a very poor life expectancy. Today many patients are diagnosed at an early stage. The therapies that offer a high rate of complete responses and potential cure are surgical resection, transplantation and percutaneous ablation. Among non-curative therapies the only one that has been shown to positively impact survival is transarterial chemoembolization. Several steps have to be taken to improve effectiveness of HCC therapy. These include patient education on risk factors for HCC and implementation of screening programs, increasing the number of patients diagnosed in early stage.
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