Should you be screened for liver cancer?
Screening tests are powerful cancer prevention tools that can detect pre-cancerous conditions early, sometimes before symptoms arise. However, screening tests don’t exist for all types of cancer, and some are advised only for people who have specific traits that increase their risk.
MD Anderson has developed its own set of evidence-based screening guidelines, which, like those from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society, recommend that people be screened regularly for certain cancers.
In addition, MD Anderson recommends liver cancer screening for high-risk patients.
“There are no national guidelines for liver cancer screening, partly because no clinical trial has been conducted to assess its effectiveness,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center. “But emerging evidence suggests there may be benefits to screening populations at high risk.”
MD Anderson considers people to be at high risk for liver cancer if they have hepatitis B or C, or if they’ve been recommended for hepatitis B or C screenings. The viruses attack the liver and can cause liver cancer, cirrhosis (scarring) and liver failure.
For others who don’t meet this highrisk definition, screening benefits may not be as clear. Screening can even have negative consequences, such as false-negative or false-positive test results.
“Cancer screening is always about understanding and balancing the benefits and harms, and making sure there’s a favorable outcome for the patient,” says Bevers. “Your doctor can advise you about your risk for liver cancer and your need for screening tests.”