Hepatocellular carcinoma surveillance - utilization, barriers and the impact of changing aetiology

Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2023 Dec;20(12):797-809. doi: 10.1038/s41575-023-00818-8. Epub 2023 Aug 3.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Surveillance for HCC is critical for early detection and treatment, but fewer than one-quarter of individuals at risk of HCC undergo surveillance. Multiple failures across the screening process contribute to the underutilization of surveillance, including limited disease awareness among patients and health-care providers, knowledge gaps, and difficulty recognizing patients who are at risk. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcohol-associated liver disease are the fastest-rising causes of HCC-related death worldwide and are associated with unique barriers to surveillance. In particular, more than one-third of patients with HCC related to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease do not have cirrhosis and therefore lack a routine indication for HCC surveillance on the basis of current practice guidelines. Semi-annual abdominal ultrasound with measurement of α-fetoprotein levels is recommended for HCC surveillance, but the sensitivity of this approach for early HCC is limited, especially for patients with cirrhosis or obesity. In this Review, we discuss the current status of HCC surveillance and the remaining challenges, including the changing aetiology of liver disease. We also discuss strategies to improve the utilization and quality of surveillance for HCC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic*
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Risk Factors