Hep B Blog

Tag Archives: cirrhosis

It’s Flu Season: Protect Your Liver from Unintentional Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Overdose

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cold season is here and sometimes the flu vaccine and washing our hands just aren’t enough to keep colds at bay. If you do get sick, make sure the over-the-counter (OTC) medication you take doesn’t damage your liver while it’s relieving your cold symptoms

Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) is the most popular painkiller in the United States. (In other parts of the world it is known as Paracetamol.) Not only is it found in the 8 billion acetaminophen pills Americans take each year to reduce aches and pains, it’s also found in cough and congestion medications. When we have hepatitis B, we need to be careful we don’t unintentionally overdose when we take acetaminophen pills and cough or sinus medications. Continue reading "It’s Flu Season: Protect Your Liver from Unintentional Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Overdose"

Your Doctor Not Screening You for Liver Cancer? Time for a Talk

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The longer we have hepatitis B, the higher our risk of developing liver cancer. With every decade of life, our liver cancer risk increases 2.7-times, according to a report on Viral Hepatitis in the Elderly published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

But current medical guidelines don’t spell out exactly when liver cancer testing should begin in many hepatitis B patients who don’t have liver damage (cirrhosis) or a family history of liver cancer, and are not of Asian or African descent.

Age is clearly an important factor when it comes to liver cancer, “… but current guidelines only provide age-specific recommendations for (liver cancer) surveillance in hepatitis B carriers of Asian ethnicity (men over age 40 and women over age 50),” a team of University of Miami and Veterans Affairs researchers wrote in the journal article. Continue reading "Your Doctor Not Screening You for Liver Cancer? Time for a Talk"

Get Tested for Liver Cancer, Your Life May Depend on It

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month. It may be a sleeper of a event when compared to other health campaigns, but for us who live with viral hepatitis, it’s an uncomfortable but critical reminder of the importance of monitoring our liver health to prevent cancer.

Viral hepatitis, especially B and C, are viral infections that can cause liver cancer  (also called hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC.) Researchers are still studying why some people are more prone to liver cancer, but we who live with chronic hepatitis B or C have a 25 to 40 percent lifetime risk of developing liver cancer. The infection, which hijacks our liver cells to manufacture more virus, causes inflammation, scarring and even cancer as the liver cells grow out of control.

The longer we are infected with viral hepatitis, the higher our risk of developing liver cancer. While liver cancer often occurs in people with cirrhosis (severe liver scarring), some of us develop cancer without cirrhosis. Continue reading "Get Tested for Liver Cancer, Your Life May Depend on It"

Growing Older with Hepatitis B: Why Testing for Liver Damage Still Matters

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Around the world, older adults bear the greatest burden of hepatitis B. Born before the childhood vaccination became available, about 4.7 percent of U.S. adults over age 50 have been infected and their chronic hepatitis B rate is nearly two-fold higher than in younger adults.

The 50-plus generation has lived with with chronic hepatitis B for decades, and over time their risk of liver damage, cirrhosis, and cancer has steadily increased. That is why it is very important that older adults living with this infection see their physicians regularly and have tests for liver damage and cancer performed as needed. Continue reading "Growing Older with Hepatitis B: Why Testing for Liver Damage Still Matters"

HBV Journal Review – June 2015

ChrisKHBF is pleased to connect our blog readers to Christine Kukka’s monthly HBV Journal Review that she writes for the HBV Advocate. The journal presents the
 latest in hepatitis B research, treatment, and prevention from recent academic and medical journals. This month, the following topics are explored:

  • HBV Liver Cancer Requires Aggressive Treatment from the Start
  • Experts: Treat Cirrhotic Patients, Even if Viral Load Is Low
  • Some Patients Can Safely Stop Antiviral After Four Years
  • Tenofovir Safe and Effective in Pregnant Women with Drug Resistance
  • Researchers Discover Why Children Become Chronically Infected
  • Expert Recommends Treatment for Mental Confusion from Cirrhosis
  • Antivirals Increase Survival After Liver Cancer Treatment
  • HBV Patients with Diabetes Have a Higher Risk of Liver Cancer
  • Long-term Antiviral Use Increases Hip Fracture Rates Slightly
  • Second Vaccine Series May Be Needed for Children with Celiac Disease
  • Researchers Find HBV B Strain in Cuba Did Not Come from Africa

Continue reading "HBV Journal Review – June 2015"

Q & A – Treatment Options for Liver Cancer Webinar

gish_robert_garethDr. Gish answered answered a number of very important questions for those diagnosed with liver cancer, and also has some great advice for liver cancer surveillance, including best imaging tests for the diagnosis of cirrhosis or liver cancer and more.  Continue reading "Q & A – Treatment Options for Liver Cancer Webinar"

HBV Journal Review – September 2014

ChrisKHBF is pleased to connect our blog readers to Christine Kukka’s monthly HBV Journal Review that she writes for the HBV Advocate. The journal presents the
 latest in hepatitis B research, treatment, and prevention from recent academic and medical journals. This month, the following topics are explored:

  • New Study Finds HBV Genotype E Responds Poorly to Entecavir
  • HBV Genotypes Help Tell the Human Story of Slavery in the Americas
  • Researchers Find Tenofovir Increases Hip Bone Loss in Older Patients
  • Decline in HBV RNA Indicates Who Loses HBeAg During Antiviral Treatment
  •  Shortened Vaccination Schedule May Get More Drug Users Immunized
  • Primary Care Doctors Rarely Screen Patients for Cirrhosis
  • Tenofovir or Telbivudine Recommended for Pregnant Women with High Viral Loads
  • Access to Healthy Food Vital for HBV Patients, but Many Live in Food “Deserts”
  • Scientists Create Viable Liver Cells in a Lab for HBV Research
  • Nerve Damage Prompts Warning Against Telbivudine-Interferon Combo Treatment

HBV Journal Review

September 1, 2014
Volume 11, Issue 9
by Christine M. Kukka

New Study Finds HBV Genotype E Responds Poorly to Entecavir
Experts know some hepatitis B virus (HBV) strains called genotypes respond better to interferon treatment than others, but now scientists are discovering that genotypes respond differently to antiviral treatment too.

HBV genotypes are found in different regions of the world and each evolved over centuries to have slightly different molecular make-ups with unique traits. Some carry a higher risk of liver damage and cancer, while other genotypes are less virulent.

In a recent study, Italian researchers compared how well patients with genotypes A, D and E fared after three years of treatment with the antiviral entecavir (Baraclude). All of the patients tested negative for the hepatitis B “e” antigen (HBeAg-negative). The scientists measured hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) levels and HBV DNA (viral load) every three months during the first year of treatment and then every six months over the study period.

They found the rates of HBsAg declines resulting from antiviral treatment varied markedly between genotypes. They extrapolated how many years of entecavir treatment each genotype required before a patient would clear HBsAg and achieve undetectable viral load.

HBV genotype A: It would take on average 15.6 years of entecavir treatment for an HBeAg-negative patient with HBV genotype A to lose HBsAg. This genotype is found in northern Europe, North America, India and southern Africa.

HBV genotype D: It would take 17 years for genotype D patients to lose HBsAg. This strain is found primarily in Russia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, and India.

HBV genotype E: This genotype, found in Central Africa, responded the most poorly to entecavir. Scientists estimated it would take 24.6 years for these patients to lose HBsAg, according to the report published in the August issue of the Journal of Medical Virology.

Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25131947

HBV Genotypes Help Tell the Human Story of Slavery in the Americas
Because HBV genotypes develop in specific regions around the world, their distribution around the world today can help tell the story of mass human migrations, including the enslavement and forced migration of millions of Africans to Brazil since the 1500s.

Read the HBV Journal Review in its entirety here. 

HBV Journal Review – April 2014

ChrisKHBF is pleased to connect our blog readers to Christine Kukka’s monthly HBV Journal Review that she writes for the HBV Advocate. The journal presents the
latest in hepatitis B research, treatment, and prevention from recent academic and medical journals. This month, the following topics are explored:

  • Despite Antiviral Treatment, Liver Cancer Risk Persists
  • Vitamin D Appears to Help Prevent Liver Cancer
  • Dandelions May Be the Next Best Herbal Treatment for Hepatitis B
  • Kidney Problems Are Prevalent with Hepatitis B Even Before Treatment Starts
  • HBV Genotype H Appears to Cause Immediate Chronic Infection in Adults
  • HBV Genotype E Has the Worst Response to Pegylated Interferon
  • Cancer-Causing YMDD Mutations Found Frequently in HBV Genotype C
  • High Iron Levels Found in Patients with Liver Failure
  • Vietnamese-Americans at High Risk of Undiagnosed Hepatitis B and C
  • Entecavir Performance Is Mediocre in Lamivudine-Resistant Patients
  • A Simple Platelet Count Test Could Be Best Indicator of Fibrosis

HBV Journal Review
April 1, 2014
Volume 11, no 4
by Christine M. Kukka

Despite Antiviral Treatment, Liver Cancer Risk Persists
Researchers have hoped that treating hepatitis B patients with antivirals would reduce both their viral loads and their liver cancer risk. However, a new study that followed 1,378 treated and 1,014 untreated patients over five years found antivirals did not reduce liver cancer rates as hoped.

The study tracked new liver cancer cases among patients infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) (average age 47, 65% male) who had been treated primarily with entecavir (Baraclude) for their high viral loads and liver damage. They compared that group’s liver cancer occurrence to those of patients whose “inactive” HBV infection did not require treatment.

Among the treated group, 70 patients (6.2%) developed liver cancer during the study period compared to only 11 (1.1%) in the untreated group. Notwithstanding  the ability of antivirals to reduce viral load, a life-long history of HBV infection and liver damage appeared to increase cancer risk, despite the reduction in viral load later in life.

What is especially disappointing is that liver cancer developed even in treated patients who had no history of cirrhosis (severe liver scarring) which increases cancer risk. Among the antiviral-treated patients:

  • • 20 of 223 HBeAg-negative patients who had cirrhosis at the start of treatment developed liver cancer.
  • • 15 of 316 HBeAg-negative patients who had no cirrhosis also developed liver cancer.
  • • Among the treated patients who developed liver cancer, 30 were positive for the hepatitis B “e” antigen (HBeAg) and 30 were HBeAg-negative.

How well the antiviral worked in patients also determined who remained cancer-free. Of the 246 patients who failed to achieve low or undetectable viral loads as a result of treatment, 36 (18.8%) patients developed liver cancer over the five-year study.

The risk of cancer was increased overall by male gender, underlying cirrhosis and older age in the treated group. Curiously, having high viral loads (HBV DNA) at the start of treatment did not appear to increase liver cancer risk.

The key message for doctors is that liver cancer risk remains despite a dramatic reduction in viral load, researchers noted. “…Patients on (antiviral) treatment that effectively suppressed viral replication are still at higher risk of liver cancer compared with patients with inactive stage chronic hepatitis B,” they concluded in the study published in the March issue of the journal Gut.

Persistent liver damage before the start of antiviral treatment, evidenced by elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, may predispose patients to liver cancer, they also noted.

“The inactive group may have more intact immune response to HBV and therefore may also have entered the inactive stage early in life, with a shorter period of high viral replication and active hepatitis,” they wrote.

Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24615378

Vitamin D Appears to Help Prevent Liver Cancer
Recent studies show a diet rich in vitamin D can improve liver health in patients with hepatitis B. A new study from Emory University in Atlanta finds that people with high vitamin D levels have lower rates of liver cancer.

The researchers examined vitamin D levels and liver cancer risk among 520,000 participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition between 1992 and 2010.

Continue reading this review and additional HBV related reviews for March

Living With HBV and Drinking Coffee

The pros and cons of drinking coffee have been wildly debated for years.  However, for those with Hepatitis B and other liver diseases, the addition of a couple of cups of coffee per day to slow down the progression of liver disease, along with decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease just makes sense.

Dr. Melissa Palmer was a guest speaker at a previous Hepatitis B Foundation patient conference. The information from her presentation had all sorts of nutritional nuggets for those with HBV (Check out Dr. Palmer on podcast if you would like to have a listen!) She stated, based on studies, that coffee and caffeine intake has been associated with improvements in liver ALT and AST levels.  There also seems to be a correlation between increased coffee consumption and warding off cirrhosis and HCC.

Just recently there are was an article that discussed the benefits of coffee for those patients with HCV, undergoing treatment with pegylated interferon (PEG) and ribavirin therapy.  It claimed that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day not only reduced some of the difficult side-effects associated with treatment of PEG, but it also increased the treatment success.  However, like so many of these coffee studies, it was a small study and had to be adjusted for other factors.

We all know that HBV and HCV are very different viral infections, but you have to wonder if any of the benefits of coffee that is seen in those being treated for HCV can be extrapolated to include those with HBV being treated with Pegylated interferon or antivirals.  Dr. Palmer did mention that coffee did seem to have a greater impact on those with hepatitis C, although I have no idea why.

Regardless, if you’re living with HBV, you have to think about the pros and cons of adding coffee to your daily list.  Since all studies seem to show an increased number of cups of coffee having a more positive impact on preventing liver disease progression, or warding off cirrhosis or potentially reducing PEG side effects or benefiting treatment, you have to consider just how much caffeine you can take.  It does not appear that caffeine is the only factor involved, but rather the coffee bean itself and associated antioxidant features.  This seems to be the case because tea, despite all of its benefits, does not appear to have the same protective effect on the liver.

What about decaffeinated coffee?  I kept looking to see if it was specifically referenced, but I haven’t seen it. However, during the decaffeinating process, much of the bean is lost, and it may be treated with a chemical solvent, both which might nix the positive benefits.  If you’re going to give decaffeinated coffee a try, consider a coffee with a more natural decaffeinating process. Personally, I’d have a tough time balancing the jitters and racing heart rate associated with drinking more than a cup or two of high-test coffee a day, but we’re all individuals.  If you can drink coffee and sleep well at night, it seems like it can’t hurt your liver health to add a few cups to your daily regimen.