Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly malignant, generally fatal neoplasm arising from hepatocytes. HCC accounts for over 80% of all primary liver cancers which ranks fourth among the organ-specific causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. HCC is particularly prevalent in Korea where the age standardized incidence rate is 46.5 per 100,000 population. Infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) or presence of liver cirrhosis are important risk factors for HCC development globally. Infection with HBV is the most important risk for HCC in Asia except Japan. The high incidence rate of HCC in Korea is thought to be related to the high carrier rate (5-6%) of HBV, which is currently being fought via a nationwide vaccination program. Although progress has been made in the management of HCC including chemoembolization and local ablation therapy, there has been little overall reduction in HCC mortality during the past 20 years. Recently, five year survival rate of primary liver cancer is 9.6% in Korea. Such poor prognosis of HCC results from the late detection of cancer, an aggressive tumor biology and underlying chronic liver diseases. Only a limited proportion of patients are candidates for potentially curative forms of treatment. Therefore efforts should be directed toward an effective surveillance program. The early detection of HCC is the important approach in reducing HCC mortality in the short term. Because almost eighty percent of HCC is diagnosed in late stage, we launched a nationwide surveillance program to screen high risk groups (HBV or HCV carriers or liver cirrhosis, over 40 years old) and formulated the Korean practice guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of HCC with special emphasis on advanced stage of HCC.
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