To Boomers and GPs: Be optimistic. Hepatitis ( Hep) C is increasingly curable. By Mary Anne Pankhurst
CFN - The optimism expressed by liver specialist Dr. Marc Bilodeau – who says we’re at the beginning of a new era in both the treatment and cure of Hepatitis C – is comforting if not contagious.
This is especially true for any of us who has ever witnessed the great suffering of someone who dies from the virus that causes cirrhosis and liver failure, or liver cancer.
However, Bilodeau – who is also a researcher at the Centre de recherche du CHUM, Hopital Saint-Luc in Montreal – has a message for ALL baby boomers and health care providers, including pharmacists and dentists.
- To the boomers, who may not know they’re infected with the virus until it’s too late: “Ask your doctor for a simple blood test.”
Boomers should also know that Hep C can be contracted by commonplace behaviours like tattoos and piercings, sharing a razor or toenail clippers, or having sex with an infected person – even if the exposure occurred back in the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. Remember, Hep C is a silent disease. There may be no symptoms or symptoms may be mistaken for general fatigue, or the common cold or flu.
- To family doctors and nurse practitioners: “Hep C is treatable and curable but depends on early detection, particularly in boomers currently aged 48 to 66.”
- To pharmacists and dentists: “You probably come into contact with people who are chronically ill but unaware. We all need to be health promoters so tell your boomers that Hep C can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.”
The emphasis that Dr. Bilodeau and the scientific and clinical communities place on having boomers “take charge” by asking for a blood test is straightforward: 57 per cent of Canadian GPs recently surveyed admit they’re not aware Hep C can be cured or how it’s treated. And this, in essence, is the great gap that can make a difference in survival. Because by the time a person sees the specialist –with liver cancer or advanced cirrhosis – the consequences of Hep C may be too far-gone.
In addition, even those sufferers who are good candidates for a liver transplant may sadly die waiting.
“Livers, in general, are hard to come by,” says Bilodeau,
“and even if you get one, you can’t necessarily take a liver from a 250 pound male and put it in a 118 pound female.”
It is estimated that 250,000 Canadians are chronically infected with Hep C, and that one-third are unaware they’re infected.
Dr. Bilodeau says that with current treatment and new treatments on the horizon, the specialist community has “new hope” for saving lives.