Today marks the 6th Annual World Hepatitis Day (WHD). A day where groups from across the globe come together to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and its connection to liver cancer.
Did you know Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer if left untreated? At the Prevent Cancer Foundation, we are focusing our efforts around the prevention of Hep B and Hep C because of this connection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 5 million Americans, or about 2 percent of the population, are chronically infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or both. Yet, it is estimated that 65 and 75 percent of those living with viral hepatitis are unaware of their infection. Furthermore, more than 30 percent of infected individuals will develop cirrhosis, end stage liver disease or liver cancer.
So what is Hepatitis? “Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. Inflammation or other forms of damage to the liver can affect its function. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
There is much work to be done to help individuals avoid the harmful effects of Hepatitis through vaccination and proper treatment. On this day of global recognition, we join many others in recommending the following:
- Get tested for Hepatitis to learn your status. Your primary care physician or a local free clinic can provide this service.
- Individuals who are not infected with Hep B should be vaccinated against the disease. Although, there is currently no cure for Hepatitis B, there are antiviral medications that can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage the liver.
- While there isn’t a vaccination against Hepatitis C, there are treatment options available that can cure the disease.
It is important to talk with your doctor about how you can prevent or be treated for hepatitis. Make the call today. To learn more about how viruses can lead to cancer, visit our website here. You can also check out CDC’s website for more free resources.