Earlier detection is important to improving survival of patients with liver cancer, researchers said.
"If the cancer is found early, then we can perform curative therapies, allowing patients to live many years," said G Amit Singal, associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the US.
Risk factors for liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC, include hepatitis C infection, chronic heavy alcohol consumption, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease related to diabetes and obesity.
Symptoms can include upper abdominal pain or swelling, loss of weight or appetite, white chalky stools, and general fatigue.
Liver cancer screening guidelines for patients with cirrhosis vary, with some guidelines calling for just imaging and other guidelines calling for both imaging and high alpha fetoprotein (AFP) measurement.
"Liver cancer screening in patients with chronic liver disease has traditionally been performed using an abdominal ultrasound. While ultrasound is readily available and noninvasive, it misses many cancers when they are small," said Singal.
"Our study found that adding the blood biomarker alpha fetoprotein increased detection of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma from 45 percent with ultrasound alone to 63 per cent using the two tests in combination," he said.
"Our results highlight the importance of continued development and validation of blood-based biomarkers for liver cancer early detection," said Singal.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)