In recognition of Liver Cancer Awareness Month, Liver Cancer Connect is highlighting some of the advances in prevention, screening, and treatment that are leading to increased survival among people with liver cancer.
When it comes to liver cancer, we’ve all heard the disheartening numbers.
Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC) is the most common solid tumor worldwide and moved up this year to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
In the United States, liver cancer has an overall 5-year survival rate of around 18% and is one of the fastest growing cancers in incidence, due to chronic infection with hepatitis B or C virus and fatty liver disease. In fact, liver cancer is projected to become the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US by 2030.
Sobering statistics…but it’s not all doom and gloom.
Here at Liver Cancer Connect , we want to highlight some of the advances in liver cancer care that are leading to increased survival. We have a long way to go, but with greater awareness and a concerted global effort, the stats for liver cancer can become less gloomy.
First let’s talk about the most effective treatment for liver cancer: prevention.
Prevention and early detection are vital in the fight against cancer. This is especially true for liver cancer, which is largely preventable through elimination of its main causes, namely, chronic infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus, and fatty liver disease.
The hepatitis B vaccine — dubbed the world’s first “anti-cancer” vaccine —prevents hepatitis B, a leading cause of liver cancer. Studies have shown that the vaccine is highly effective in preventing liver cancer among vaccinated individuals.
For people with chronic hepatitis B infection, continued antiviral treatment can keep the virus under control, stopping the progression of liver damage to liver cancer, and preventing recurrence of liver cancer after liver resection.
Perhaps the most exciting recent news in the hepatitis world is that hepatitis C— the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States— is now curable! This is a remarkable advance in the fight against liver cancer.
And nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is increasingly emerging as a risk factor for liver cancer, can be prevented with healthy diets and lifestyles.
Of course, vaccines and antiviral drugs are only effective when used. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people with chronic hepatitis don’t know they are infected and therefore do not seek or receive treatment.
To address this, the US Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended hepatitis B screening in high-risk ethnic groups. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all baby boomers (those born between 1945 through 1965) get tested for hepatitis C. People who have not been infected with hepatitis B can get the hepatitis B vaccine, which offers lifelong protection against hepatitis B. And people with hepatitis C now have a cure.
People at high risk for liver cancer should undergo screening and regular testing (surveillance) for early detection of the cancer. In our next blog, find out who should be screened and how screening and surveillance save lives!