Optimal Intervals of Ultrasonography Screening for Early Diagnosis of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Taiwan

Shih Chiang Kuo, Chia Ni Lin, Yih Jyh Lin, Wei Ying Chen, Jing Shiang Hwang, Jung Der Wang

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Importance: There are different clinical practices regarding ultrasonography screening intervals for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) despite recommendations from international guidelines. Objective: To evaluate whether ultrasonography screening using intervals suggested by international guidelines is associated with cancer stage shifting, reductions in mortality, and improved quality of life (QoL) for patients with HCC. Design, Setting, and Participants: This nationwide comparative effectiveness research study estimated lifetime survival functions using interlinkages of 3 databases from Taiwan - the Taiwan National Health Insurance, Taiwan National Cancer Registry, and National Mortality Registry - combined with QoL measurements obtained from National Cheng Kung University Hospital. In total, 114022 patients listed as having newly diagnosed HCC from 2002 through 2015 in the Taiwan National Cancer Registry were followed up until 2017. The QoL values of 1059 patients with HCC who visited National Cheng Kung University Hospital were prospectively measured with the European QoL-5 dimensions questionnaire from 2011 through 2019. Patients were categorized based on the time between their last ultrasonography screening and the index date (90 days prior to HCC diagnosis) as 1 of 5 subcohorts: 6 months (0-6 months), 12 months (7-12 months), 24 months (13-24 months), 36 months (25-36 months), and longer than 36 months (no screening in the previous 3 years). Data were analyzed from April 2020 to April 2021. Main Outcomes and Measures: Life expectancy, quality-adjusted life expectancy, and loss of life expectancy or loss of quality-adjusted life expectancy compared with age-, sex-, and calendar year-matched cohorts. Results: There were 59194 patients with Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer staging information, including 42081 men (mean [SD] age, 62.2 [12.6] years) and 17113 women (mean [SD] age, 69.0 [11.2] years). There was a consistent trend showing that the longer the interval between ultrasonography examinations, the higher the loss of life expectancy and loss of quality-adjusted life expectancy for both sexes. Loss of quality-adjusted life expectancy values for male subcohorts were 10.0 (95% CI, 9.1-10.9) quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) for ultrasonography screening intervals of 6 months, 11.1 (95% CI, 10.4-11.8) QALYs for 12 months, 12.1 (95% CI, 11.5-12.7) QALYs for 24 months, 13.1 (95% CI, 12.6-13.6) QALYs for 36 months, and 14.6 (95% CI, 14.2-15.0) QALYs for longer than 36 months. Loss of quality-adjusted life expectancy values for female subcohorts were 9.0 (95% CI, 8.3-9.6) QALYs for 6 months, 9.7 (95% CI, 9.2-10.2) QALYs for 12 months, 10.3 (95% CI, 9.8-10.7) QALYs for 24 months, 10.7 (95% CI, 10.2-11.1) QALYs for 36 months, and 11.4 (95% CI, 11.0-11.8) QALYs for longer than 36 months. Patients with underlying hepatitis B virus infection or cirrhosis had the greatest improvement in life expectancy with shorter screening intervals. Conclusions and Relevance: Regular ultrasonography screening with intervals less than 6 to 12 months may be associated with early detection of HCC, save lives, and improve the quality of life for patients with HCC from a lifetime perspective..

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2114680
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun 24

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


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