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The Alarming Link between Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer Revealed - Act Now!

Updated: 12 Mar 2024
Published: 11 Mar 2024
Alarming Link between Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause a person to suffer from chronic Hepatitis B liver infection which is the top factor for developing liver cancer. Hepatitis which translates to “inflammation of liver” weakens the liver and hampers the organ’s normal functioning which allows it to filter toxins from the blood and maintain optimum blood sugar levels.  Hepatitis B can be contracted through body fluids like blood or semen from a person who is already infected.

Acute hepatitis B infection lasts less than six months. One’s immune system likely can clear acute hepatitis B from his or her body and should recover completely within a few months. However, an unfortunate 5-10% of these patients develop chronic infection which allows the the virus to foster in the liver for years. In these types of cases, the patient may live normally for a while without any outward Hepatitis B symptoms, until they develop cirrhosis years later. The patient can also suffer from liver failure or liver cancer.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

Symptoms of Hepatitis B infection include:

  • Jaundice (yellow tinged skin and eyes)
  • Clay coloured stools
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Abdominal as well as joint pain
  • Fever and acute fatigue

A person experiencing any of these Hepatitis B symptoms needs to act quickly and seek expert medical advice.

A patient who has suffered from Hepatitis B infection in the past, needs to undergo regular screenings as well as liver function test, as chronic Hepatitis B may not show any noticeable symptoms even after years of contracting an infection.

Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer- Factual Links

Years of research has shown that people who suffer from chronic Hepatitis B infection are more likely to develop liver cancer later. In fact, 60% of liver cancer patients suffered from chronic Hepatitis B in the past. Annually around 788,000 people die from liver cancer and according to studies 43% of liver cancer deaths are due to chronic Hepatitis B cases.

Since 2000, there has been an alarming 53% increase in liver cancer deaths and this figure is expected to go up as approximately 292 million people around the world are living with hepatitis B.

Liver Cancer Symptoms

Liver cancer symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite and unusual weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • Lump underneath the right ribcage 
  • Feeling of discomfort beneath the right ribcage as well abdominal pain
  • Skin that bruises and bleeds easily.

Hepatitis B Treatment

Unlike acute Hepatitis B that calls for symptom relief only, chronic hepatitis B requires antiviral treatment. These antiviral medications namely Entecavir), Tenofovir are taken orally. However, in certain cases the doctor might prescribe antiviral shots as well.

A patient who has suffered from chronic hepatitis may require screening for cirrhosis as well as liver cancer. Liver transplant or liver cancer therapy might be recommended by an expert in case a person suffers from cancer due to Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B Prevention

The core prevention strategy for Hepatitis B is to avoid body fluids contact. Using protection like condom during sexual intercourse, as well as not sharing drug injection needles is advisable. Moreover, getting the recommended Hepatitis B vaccination will also ensure your safety as well as of those around you.

In cases where an individual is exposed to this virus, seeking immediate medical assistance is a must as an expert doctor may recommend a booster shot for hepatitis B. In certain cases, the patient may also be advised to take HBIG or hepatitis immune globulin medication within 24 hours of exposure. Patients with chronic hepatitis B need to undergo regular liver function test and screening.

Conclusion

Hepatitis B affects different people in different ways depending on its severity. This is why timely intervention as well as preventive measure like vaccination is important.

Liver cancer is one such deadly complication that can develop from chronic Hepatitis B. This is why it is extremely important not to make light of symptoms and visit a doctor to get a thorough check up. The sooner hepatitis B infection is detected; the better chances a patient has of coming out of it without any life-threatening complications like cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can a person with no symptoms spread Hepatitis B?

    Answer:- Yes. A lot of Hepatitis B patients show no outward symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. In fact, symptoms if any, occur an average of 3 months or 90 days after being exposed to the virus.

  2. How damaging chronic Hepatitis B can be to my overall health?

    Answer:- Chronic hepatitis B can cause some serious damage to your health in the long term, including cirrhosis, liver damage and liver cancer.

  3. Should pregnant women get tested for Hepatitis B?

    Answer:- Yes, it is advisable for pregnant women to get tested for hepatitis B in the first trimester itself. Consulting and taking advice from your doctor is a good idea.

  4. What are the symptoms of short-term or acute Hepatitis B?

    Answer:- Symptoms of acute Hepatitis B are:

    Jaundice (yellow eyes and yellow hued complexion)
    Clay coloured stools
    Dark urine
    Unusual joint pain
    Abdominal pain and nausea
    Fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite

  5. How is liver cancer detected?

    Answer:- There are many ways of detecting liver cancer like ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography scan as well as routine blood testing and physical examination.

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