©The Author(s) 2019. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) makes up 75%-85% of all primary liver cancers and is the fourth most common cause of cancer related death worldwide. Chronic liver disease is the most significant risk factor for HCC with 80%-90% of new cases occurring in the background of cirrhosis. Studies have shown that early diagnosis of HCC through surveillance programs improve prognosis and availability of curative therapies. All patients with cirrhosis and high-risk hepatitis B patients are at risk for HCC and should undergo surveillance. The recommended surveillance modality is abdominal ultrasound (US) given that it is cost effective and noninvasive with good sensitivity. However, US is limited in obese patients and those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). With the current obesity epidemic and rise in the prevalence of NAFLD, abdominal computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging may be indicated as the primary screening modality in these patients. The addition of alpha-fetoprotein to a surveillance regimen is thought to improve the sensitivity of HCC detection. Further investigation of serum biomarkers is needed. Semiannual screening is the suggested surveillance interval. Surveillance for HCC is underutilized and low adherence disproportionately affects certain demographics such as non-Caucasian race and low socioeconomic status.