Detecting and treating liver cancer at its earlier stages will require a better system of surveillance and testing, said Hashem El-Serag, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the gastroenterology and hepatology section at Baylor College of Medicine during a presentation at a joint conference of the American Gastroenterological Association and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy in Coronado, California.
Hepatocellar carcinoma (HCC) is the fastest rising cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, said El-Serag. The incidence has tripled over the past 20 years.
“Survival really remains dismal” he said, noting that only about 10 percent of people diagnosed with the disease live longer than five years.
Given this stark reality, one way to attack the high mortality rate of liver cancer is to do a better job of implementing a system of surveillance and testing that could lead to early detection, said El-Serag. There are several stages along the way from healthy liver to malignant transformation that offer opportunities for detection and intervention.
“We know most of the risk factors. Hepatitis B accounts for two-thirds of all cases worldwide. Hepatitis C accounts for half of the cases in this country, and alcohol accounts for a very low proportion,” said El-Serag.