Source Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oreg., USA.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common, aggressive malignancy that usually develops in a background of liver cirrhosis. Practice guidelines recommend screening of cirrhotic patients with ultrasound and more detailed imaging (computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging) if abnormalities are detected. The utility of alpha-fetoprotein levels in HCC surveillance is controversial. Although HCC risk differs by etiology of cirrhosis, screening and surveillance guidelines are uniform after cirrhosis is established. We report a case of rapidly progressive HCC occurring in a cirrhotic patient with multiple unique risk factors for neoplasia, detected by a rising alpha-fetoprotein level without imaging features of liver cancer.