Niger J Med. 2001 Apr-Jun; 10(2): 59-63.
Primary hepatocellular carcinoma in Ile-Ife, Nigeria: a prospective study of 154 cases.
Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
Primary hepatocellular carcinoma is a tumour with a dismal prognosis. In recent times, however, great advances have been made in its management. This 13-year prospective study done at Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals Complex, Ile-Ife, was an attempt to appraise the outlook of the disease in Nigeria at the turn of the 21st century. Primary hepatocellular carcinoma affected mainly middle-aged Nigerians (peak age-group = 40-59 years), predominantly males (M:F = 2:1) and, in a sizeable proportion (78%), it co-existed with cirrhosis. Significant risk factors found were scarification marks (87%), anicteric hepatitis (71.3%), abuse of medicinal herbs and analgesics (68.6%) and injection from quack doctors (51%). Blood test for HBsAg was positive in 61% of patients. The mean duration of symptoms. before diagnosis was 12.64 weeks (SD 13.77) while, on the average, patients died within 14.0 weeks (SD 13.0) of illness, usually of liver failure (67.7%). Only symptomatic treatment could be offered in 148 patients (96.1%) while chemotherapy was merely attempted in 5 (3.25%). Majority of the patients (59.8%) were either discharged against medical advice or lost to follow-up. This study shows that Nigerian patients presenting with primary hepatocellular carcinoma already have advanced disease and this makes treatment and survival hopeless. Universal immunisation with HB vaccine should be implemented in Nigeria without further delay and health education should be directed against socio-cultural practices which are aetiological risk factors for primary hepatocellular carcinoma.