Screening, Surveillance, and Management of Hepatocellular Carcinoma During the COVID-19 Pandemic: a Narrative Review

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AKBULUT A. S. , Garzali I. U. , Hargura A. S. , Aloun A., YILMAZ S.

JOURNAL OF GASTROINTESTINAL CANCER, 2022 (Journal Indexed in ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s12029-022-00830-2
  • Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, Liver resection, Liver transplantation, Screening, Surveillance, COVID-19 pandemic, LIVER-TRANSPLANTATION, RECOMMENDATIONS, DIAGNOSIS, SCHEDULE, SURVIVAL, MODEL, CARE, ERA


Purpose The COVID-19 pandemic has been a burden to the global community as a whole but the healthcare community had bore the brunt of it. The pandemic resulted in policy changes that interfered with effective healthcare delivery. The healthcare community attempted to cope with the pandemic by triaging and prioritizing emergency conditions especially COVID related, ahead of elective conditions like cancer care. There was also fear that patients with cancer were at an increased risk of sever COVID-19 with increased mortality. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was also affected by these policies. Methods We reviewed the modified measures adopted in screening, surveillance, and management of HCC during the pandemic using PubMed, Medline, Index Medicus, EMBASE, SCOPUS, and Google Scholar databases. Result The main modification in surveillance and screening for HCC during the pandemic includes limiting the surveillance to those with very high risk of HCC. The interval between surveillan was also delayed by few months in some cases. The adoption of teleconferencing for multidisciplinary team meetings and patient consultation is one of the highlights of this pandemic all in an effort to reduce contact and spread of the virus. The treatment of early-stage HCC was also modified as needed. The role of ablative therapy in the management of early HCC was very prominent during the pandemic as the surgical therapy was significantly affected by the lacks of ventilators and intensive care unit space resulting from the pandemic. Transplantation, especially living donor liver transplantation, was suspended in few centers because of the risk of infection to the living donors. Conclusion As we gradually recover from the pandemic, we should prepare for the fallout from the pandemic as we may encounter increased presentation of those patients deferred from screening during the pandemic.