Liver cancer is hard to treat and deadly if it's diagnosed late, which is why early detection is so important.
Tamar Taddei is part of a Department of Veterans Affairs study that is the largest clinical trial in history related to liver cancer screening.
“Early liver cancer can be treated very effectively with local treatments,” Taddei said. “It's just a question of staying on top of it. And so this study will actually help us to hopefully prove that by detecting early and staying on top of it offering these local treatments, we can preserve liver function and preserve life in our patients."
Ultrasound has long been the standard for screening patients with cirrhosis, which is liver scarring caused by several different conditions. It is a leading risk factor for liver cancer.
The quality of the ultrasound can vary depending on who is doing the procedure and the patient's body type.
This study is looking at whether an abbreviated MRI could be more effective at detecting cancer sooner.
“The MRI scan could be 90 or 95% sensitive at picking up those early cancers where the ultrasound is only 60% sensitive,” said Dr. George Ioannou with the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System.
He believes the cost of this shorter MRI could be about the same as an ultrasound in the future.
Veterans are at a slightly higher risk than the general population for liver disease because of risk factors like hepatitis C, diabetes and hypertension.
Liver cancer is currently the sixth leading cause of cancer-related death in the u.S.
This trial will recruit 4,700 veterans with cirrhosis from VA medical centers nationwide.
The study will follow them over eight years.