National Cancer Control Month: The Silent Connection Between Hepatitis C and Liver Cancer


In this guest commentary, Thelma King Thiel, RN, co-founder and chair of the Liver Health Initiative talks about the link between viral hepatitis and liver cancer as well as the need for public awareness to take preventative steps towards trying to prevent both of them.

April is National Cancer Control month in the United States. The month is dedicated to raising awareness for cancer prevention and treatment. Despite all the encouraging research and successful treatments, cancer is a scary word that conjures up feelings of hopelessness. As it relates to infectious disease, hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common cause for liver cancer.

Efforts to reduce this form of cancer have focused on HCV treatment.

The US federal government is looking to develop a new program for eliminating HCV, which would expand screening, prevention, and treatment. A big part of the focus is on the marginalized populations. Sadly, an estimated one third of HCV infected individuals have not sought testing and treatment.

Unfortunately, there are no initiatives identified to address the need to promote primary prevention of the development of cirrhosis and liver cancer especially among patients infected with hepatitis B and C.

Most people are uninformed about their noncomplaining liver and the vital role its microscopic cells play creating and sustaining hundreds of life supporting body parts and functions.

The CDC has developed an awareness campaign calling attention to hepatitis, its modes of transmission, and the fact that it is a silent disease often without any signs or symptoms attacking the liver.

However, a big factor is due to the lack of education about the liver, which has been absent in schools for decades; contributing to the enormous pool of uninformed adults who are unknowingly participating in liver damaging activities that expose them to hepatitis and other liver-related diseases.

Recent research called attention to the fact the liver has amazing "cancer fighting cells" that protect us from exposure to environmental pollutants, viruses, alcohol, as well as overabundance of fat cells. This last component in obese individuals deprive liver cells of oxygen, and can develop into cirrhosis or cancer.

Individuals with HCV need to know the virus is like silent termites that eat away at the foundation of their boides and destroy liver cells' ability to perform hundreds of life-supporting body functions.

Unhealthy diets and alcohol consumption are the two main lifestyle behaviors that underlie the development of cancer. Unfortunately, patients with hepatitis are also unaware that alcohol overuse can damage cancer fighting cells that protect them from additional damage. Excessive drinking can damage the liver's ability to create hundreds of essential life supporting functions.

To empower individuals to participate in their own health care, information about complex liver functions need to be made personal, relatable, and memorable. Through the effective use of analogies and storytelling technique they can relate to, developed by the Liver Health Initiative, messages are creatively tailored to the gender, position, and ethnicities of participants.

Education about the liver is the key to alerting the uninformed masses. Many chronic liver related diseases, NAFLD, and obesity can underlie the development of cirrhosis—but in many cases, these health issues can be prevented.

Recent research has alerted us as to how unhealthy food and lifestyle choices lead to various diseases and eventually the development of chronic liver diseases or cancer. Learn how to take care of your personal internal “life support system”your amazing noncomplaining liver.

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