Ultrasound Imaging and Blood Test can Improve Liver Cancer Detection

Ultrasound imaging and blood test can improve liver cancer detection by as much as 40 percent. A team of scientists including one of Indian origin has discovered a way to detect early-stage liver cancer.

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According to the researchers, combining ultrasound imaging with a blood test for high alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels together can detect liver cancer.

G Amit Singal, associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the US said that the advance knowledge can help doctors to perform curative therapies and treatments so that patients can live many years.

Liver cancer’s risk factors also called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) include hepatitis C infection, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease related to diabetes and obesity, and chronic heavy alcohol consumption. It includes symptoms such as upper abdominal pain or swelling, white chalky stools, general fatigue, and loss of weight or appetite.

Traditionally an abdominal ultrasound is used to detect liver cancer in patients with the chronic liver disease, but as an ultrasound is noninvasive it misses many cancers, according to Singal.

Singal said, “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 percent using the two tests in combination.” he said, “Ultrasound imaging and blood test can improve liver cancer detection.”

AFP is the most abundant plasma protein found in the human fetus. In adults, AFP levels are normally low, but liver cancer can increase AFP levels.

Liver cancer detection at an earlier stage is important to improve patients’ survival with liver cancer, researchers said. The research was performed using a meta-analysis of 32 previous studies.