Welcome to the newly launched blog from Liver Cancer Connect, the Hepatitis B Foundation’s dedicated program on liver cancer. The blog will focus on issues that affect families facing liver cancer.
On the recent World Cancer Day 2014, we ushered in the new year with both sobering news and some optimism.
First the sobering news. The American Cancer Society recently reported1 that the number of new cases of liver cancer and the number of deaths due to this disease continue to increase.
The rate of liver/bile duct cancer has risen by 3% to 4% per year and mortality by about 2% over the past 2 decades. In sharp contrast, the death rate for all cancers combined has been steadily declining over the same period and the number of new cases has decreased for most cancers.
Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. In fact, every 30 seconds, one person in the world dies of liver cancer.
Yet liver cancer is largely preventable!
Eliminating the main risk factors for liver cancer — chronic hepatitis B and C infections and fatty liver disease — can stop the development of liver cancer.
Chronic hepatitis B and C infections, which cause about 85% of liver cancers worldwide, are preventable and treatable. A safe vaccine against hepatitis B (the world’s first anti-cancer vaccine) has been available since 1986. And while a cure is not yet available, hepatitis B infections can be kept under control with effective treatments. There is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C, but it can be cured. And fatty liver disease can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and diet.
Equally important in preventing liver cancer are screening and surveillance, which help to find the cancer early. Screening is the first test that a person undergoes to detect either an increased risk for liver cancer or the actual presence of the cancer. Surveillance refers to the regular monitoring for liver cancer on a ~6-month basis.
Early detection increases the number of treatment options available and the chances of successful treatment. A targeted oral therapy called Nexavar (sorafenib) is currently approved for liver cancer in more than 70 countries, and researchers are looking for new ways to fight liver cancer with fewer side effects. Many of these potential new treatments are being studied in clinical trials.
So there is room for optimism. With greater public awareness of the risk factors and how to prevent them, and new therapies being developed, it is possible to reverse the bleak statistics for liver cancer.
With the rallying call, “Liver cancer is preventable!” Liver Cancer Connect is putting the spotlight on the prevention of liver cancer.
Our patient-focused website (www.livercancerconnect.org) explains the main risk factors for liver cancer and the importance of screening, surveillance, and early intervention. Over the next few months we will be expanding the resources on the website and bringing you more news and information on liver cancer. We encourage you to explore the website and send us your comments.
1. Siegel R, Ma J, Zou Z, Jemal A. Cancer Statistics, 2014. CA Cancer J Clin 2014 (epub ahead of print).