Effect of COVID-19 Pandemic on Hepatocellular Carcinoma Diagnosis: Results from a Single Turkey Center Study
Background and Aims: Currently malignancies of the liver are the sixth most frequently diagnosed cancers worldwide. The admission of patients to hospitals decreased due to the restriction of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVİD-19) pandemic, especially patients suspected with cancer were delayed in their diagnosis and treatment. With this study, we aimed to investigate whether the Covid-19 pandemic caused a decrease in the number of hepatocellular cancers (HCC) or a delay in its diagnosis.
Methods: The study, which included newly diagnosed HCC patients, was conducted as a retrospective cross sectional study, in a single Turkey medical center. The patients were divided into pre-COVID-19 and post- COVID-19 two-year periods and compared in terms of tumor size, biochemical parameters, clinical and demographic features.
Results: A total of 63 HCC patients, 46 (73%) patients before the COVID-19 pandemic and 17 (27%) patients diagnosed during the COVID-19 pandemic were included. Maximum diameter of lesions and serum alpha- fetoprotein levels showed a statistically significant difference between the groups. Maximum tumor size in the pre-COVID-19 period was 4.58±3.77 mm, while in the COVID-19 period was 7.42±6.88 mm, the difference between two groups being statistically significant (p<0.05). HCC in the pre-COVID-19 period were detected mostly at Barcelona Clinic for Liver Cancer (BCLC) stage A (45.7%, n=21), while in the COVID-19 period most of HCC were detected at stage B (35.3%, n=6).
Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic limited the access of patients to screening programs for HCC. The significant disruption in screening cirrhotic patients for HCC has led to a delay in diagnosis.