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Background/Aims:The Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging system is logical for the staging and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) because it was based on survival data. This study evaluated the applicability of the BCLC staging system and reasons for divergence from BCLC-recommended treatments in Korean HCC patients. Methods:One hundred and sixty consecutive HCC patients were prospectively enrolled. Treatments were generally recommended according to the guideline of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, but patients were also informed about alternative treatments. The final decision was made with patient agreement, and was based on the doctor’s preferences when a patient was unable to reach a decision. Results:There were 2 (1%), 101 (64%), 20 (12.5%), 34 (21.5%), and 3 (1%) patients with very early-, early-, intermediate-, advanced-, and terminal-stage disease, respectively. Only 64 patients (40%) were treated according to BCLC recommendations. The treatment deviated from BCLC recommendations in 68% (69/101) and 79% (27/34) of patients with early and advanced stage, respectively. The main causes of deviation were refusal to undergo surgery, the presence of an indeterminate malignancy nodule, the absence of a suitable donor, or financial problems. Conclusions:Donor shortage, financial problems, the relatively limited efficacy of molecular targeting agents, and the presence of an indeterminate nodule were the main causes of deviation from BCLC recommendations. Even after excluding cases in which decisions were made by patient preference, only 66% of the HCC patients were treated according to BCLC recommendations. Treatment guidelines that reflect the Korean situation are mandatory for HCC patients.