Background Survival in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is lower in the USA than in Taiwan. Little is known about the extent to which differences in stage at diagnosis and treatment contribute to this difference. We examined treatment patterns and survival in HCC and analyzed factors driving the difference. Methods Using a uniform methodology, we identified patients aged 66 years and older with newly diagnosed HCC between 2004 and 2011 in the USA and Taiwan. We compared treatment within 6 months after HCC diagnosis and 2-year stage-specific survival between the two countries. Results Compared with patients in Taiwan (n = 32,987), patients in the USA (n = 7,003) were less likely to be diagnosed as stage IA (4% vs 8%) and II (13% vs 22%), or receive cancer-directed treatments (41% vs 58%; all p < .001). Stage-specific 2-year survival rates were lower in the USA than in Taiwan (stage IA: 57% vs 77%; stage IB: 38% vs 63%; stage II: 40% vs 57%, stage III: 14% vs 18%; stage IV: 4% vs 5%, respectively; all p < .001 except p = .018 for stage IV). Differences in age and sex (combined), stage, and receipt of treatment accounted for 3.8%, 17.0%, and 16.8% of the survival difference, respectively, leaving 62.5% unexplained. Conclusions Differential stage at diagnosis and treatment were substantially associated with the survival difference, but approximately two-thirds of the difference remained unexplained. Identifying the main drivers of the difference could help improve HCC survival in the USA.
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