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Chang SKY, Hlaing WW, Yu RQ, Lee TWV, Ganpathi IS, Madhavan KK
Correspondence: Dr Stephen Chang Kin Yong, email@example.com
Introduction The aim of this study was to establish the value of alpha-foetoprotein (AFP) for the screening of recurrences in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients who have undergone curative hepatic resection.
Methods 72 HCC patients who had curative resection/liver transplant in 2000–2006 were monitored for recurrence by evaluating the three- or six-monthly AFP and computed tomography images. Patients without recurrence were followed up for a mean duration of 7.27 years.
Results Out of the 72 patients, 34 (47.2%) suffered from HCC recurrence. 65.4% of recurrent cases had AFP values showing an upward trend. Patients with recurrence had higher AFP values than those without at last follow-up (119.45 μg/L vs. 3.1 μg/L, p < 0.001). AFP at recurrence was independent of gender, race, history of alcohol consumption and hepatitis C or cirrhosis status. Patient with hepatitis B or those with tumours larger than 5 cm had higher AFP values. The best cut-off AFP indicative of HCC recurrence was 5.45 μg/L (sensitivity 84.4%; specificity 77.1%). High preoperative AFP was associated with high AFP at recurrence (correlation coefficient 0.553, p = 0.01).
Conclusion AFP alone is an inadequate screening test for HCC recurrence since only about two-thirds of patients showed upward AFP trend on recurrence. Our study found a relatively low cut-off point for detection of recurrence (5.54 μg/L). Patients with high preoperative AFP tended to have high AFP on recurrence. Imaging is recommended for patients with AFP levels > 5.45 μg/L, especially when AFP shows a rising trend.
Singapore Med J 2012; 53(1): 32–35