Liver Cancer Screening
The Canadian liver Foundation recommends that all patients with cirrhosis and those with hepatitis B at risk for liver cancer should be screened with ultrasound every 6 months to allow for early detection, treatment and possibly cure of this otherwise deadly cancer. The Canadian Liver Foundation calls on all Provincial Ministries of Health to develop screening programs similar to those for breast cancer, colon cancer or cervical cancer. Units providing ultrasound screening should be accredited.
The risk of developing liver cancer in patients with cirrhosis and in some patients with chronic hepatitis B is between 3-8%/year. This greatly exceeds the risk of breast cancer in women, the risk of colon cancer in the general population, and the risk of cervical cancer in the general population. There are government-sponsored screening programs for breast, colon and cervical cancer, but no government screening programs for liver cancer.
Liver cancer screening has been shown in a large randomized controlled trial to reduce mortality from the disease by 37%. It is likely that even better reductions in mortality could be achieved with newer radiological tests and active intervention. Liver cancer has gone from a virtually universally fatal disease about 10 years ago, to one which is largely curable, but this can only be achieved by regular screening and early detection of tumours.
To download a PDF of this position statement, click here.