Hepatocellular Carcinoma Diagnosis and Management in 2021: A National Veterans Affairs Quality Improvement Project

Shari S. Rogal, Tamar H. Taddei, Alexander Monto, Vera Yakovchenko, Heather Patton, Monica Merante, Patrick Spoutz, Linda Chia, Jennifer Yudkevich, Ayse Aytaman, Atoosa Rabiee, Binu V. John, Boris Blechacz, Cindy X. Cai, Ho Chong Gilles, Anand S. Shah, Heather McCurdy, Puneet Puri, Janice Jou, Khurram MazharJason A. Dominitz, Jennifer Anwar, Timothy R. Morgan, George N. Ioannou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: The coronavirus disease–2019 pandemic profoundly disrupted preventative health care services including cancer screening. As the largest provider of cirrhosis care in the United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Gastroenterology and Hepatology Program aimed to assess factors associated with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) stage at diagnosis, treatment, and survival. Methods: Veterans with a new diagnosis of HCC in 2021 were identified from electronic health records (N = 2306). Structured medical record extraction was performed by expert reviewers in a 10% random subsample of Veterans with new HCC diagnoses. Factors associated with stage at diagnosis, receipt of treatment, and survival were assessed using multivariable models. Results: Among 199 patients with confirmed HCC, the average age was 71 years and most (72%) had underlying cirrhosis. More than half (54%) were at an early stage (T1 or T2) at diagnosis. Less-advanced liver disease, number of imaging tests adequate for HCC screening, HCC diagnosis in the VA, and receipt of VA primary care were associated significantly with early stage diagnosis. HCC-directed treatments were administered to 145 (73%) patients after a median of 37 days (interquartile range, 19–54 d) from diagnosis, including 70 (35%) patients who received potentially curative treatments. Factors associated with potentially curative (vs no) treatments included HCC screening, early stage at diagnosis, and better performance status. Having fewer comorbidities and better performance status were associated significantly with noncurative (vs no) treatment. Early stage diagnosis, diagnosis in the VA system, and receipt of curative treatment were associated significantly with survival. Conclusions: These results highlight the importance of HCC screening and engagement in care for HCC diagnosis, treatment, and survival while demonstrating the feasibility of developing a national quality improvement agenda for HCC screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-338
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver Cancer
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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