Background and Aims: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a significant public health issue, with an increasing incidence and prevalence and a high incidence-to-mortality ratio. The prognosis of HCC depends on two competing factors, tumor burden and underlying liver disease severity, encompassed in the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) classification. To assess HCC staging and the way staging affects eligibility for treatment at the time of the first diagnosis in Romania in the setting of opportunistic diagnosis, in the absence of a national HCC screening policy.

Methods: Data regarding HCC staging, underlying liver disease, and eligibility for treatment at the time of diagnosis was analyzed using a prospectively maintained multicentric database, which included patients from the five largest tertiary care hepatology units in the country between June 2016 and February 2020.

Results: A consecutive series of 477 patients was included. The distribution within BCLC classes was as follows: very early (0) 7.1%, early (A) 34.3%, intermediate (B) 19.4%, advanced (C) 14.2%, terminal (D) 24.7%. At the time of the diagnosis, 198 (41.5%) were eligible for a curative intent treatment, while 359 (75.2%) were eligible for a disease-modifying therapy. 228 patients (47.8%) had decompensated liver disease at the time of diagnosis, the most common decompensating event being ascites (78.1%).

Conclusions: A large proportion of HCC cases are diagnosed at the time of a decompensating event, severely restricting the therapeutic potential. Proactive diagnostic strategies should be implemented to improve the rate of actionable diagnosis.


hepatocellular carcinoma, diagnosis, staging, liver cancer, liver disease