Did you know that Chinese Americans have one of the highest rates of liver cancer among all U.S. ethnic and racial populations? In China, one person dies from liver cancer or liver failure caused by hepatitis B every 60 seconds. An estimated 170 million people in China are infected with the hepatitis B virus and 300,000 people die as a result each year. According to national statistics, Asian Americans overall have 3 times the risk of dying from liver cancer but Chinese Americans are even higher at 6 times the risk. You could be one of them.
Hepatitis B is prevalent among Chinese Americans because the disease is widespread in Asia. The high number of immigrants from Asian countries to the US has resulted in the high number of cases of hepatitis B among Asians in the U.S. The majority of the hepatitis B cases are passed from mother to child at birth, therefore you may be carrying the virus and not even know it. If left undetected and untreated, the hepatitis B virus slowly destroys the liver and often leads to liver cancer. Even with today's medical technology, liver cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, and the 5-year survival rate remains less than 10%. Worldwide, over 1 in 20 people (400 million individuals) are living with chronic hepatitis B. In the United States, 1 in 10 foreign born Asians are living with chronic hepatitis B. Without appropriate monitoring or treatment, 1 in 4 will die from liver cancer.
Despite the grim statistics, liver cancer may be curable if diagnosed early enough. The key is proper diagnosis and early treatment and monitoring of hepatitis B. Our culture tends to avoid talking about disease and illness until it's already too late. But to protect yourself and your family you need to take action today. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to take action against hepatitis B and liver cancer:
Did you know that an average doctor's visit lasts less than 10 minutes per patient? With so little time and so many patients, your doctor often only addresses your immediate concerns. Your health is your responsibility. Take charge of your own health and wellbeing. Ask to be tested.
Ask your physician for the hepatitis B vaccination to prevent getting hepatitis B from another person. Talk to your friends and family and make sure they get tested too.
If you carry the hepatitis B virus, it is critical to ask your doctor to refer you to consult with a liver specialist. Make sure you see a doctor with special training for liver diseases (like hepatitis B): a Hepatologist or Gastroenterologist. Ask your physician to regularly check for liver cancer. It is recommended that Asians be tested for liver cancer every 6 months. All it takes is a simple blood test and an ultrasound of your liver.
Many young adults are told by well intentioned doctors not to worry about hepatitis B because of their young age and good health. It's not uncommon for liver cancerto develop in persons with hepatitis B as young as their mid-20s. If you have the hepatitis B virus, you need special medical treatment regardless of your age. See a specialist who has extensive medical training related to liver disease (Gastroenterologist or Hepatologist), in addition to your family doctor.
"Heavy alcohol consumption is the primary cause of liver cancer."
FACT: While excessive drinking can lead to liver cancer, hepatitis B is one of the most common risk factors for liver cancer.
"I know that Asians are prone to liver diseases, so I have been taking herbal remedies and liver supplements."
FACT: Diseases like hepatitis B and liver cancer may not be treated or cured with supplements. You need to get proper medical treatment to treat and monitor your condition.
"I am hepatitis B positive. My doctor told me that I am young and that I don't have to worry about it until later."
FACT: If you have hepatitis B, you should not wait. You should consult with your primary care physician and ask to refer you to a liver specialist.
"Liver cancer is only hereditary."
FACT: One of the most common risk factors for liver cancer worldwide is the hepatitis B virus.
"Hepatitis B is not a life threatening condition and people can live with the virus for a long time."
FACT: Hepatitis B is a life threatening disease because it may lead to liver cancer. Also, hepatitis B often has few or no symptoms, so many people who become chronically infected don't realize until it is too late.
Chinese Americans have one of the highest rates of liver cancer among all U.S. ethnic and racial populations. One of the most common risk factors for liver cancer worldwide is the hepatitis B virus. If you have the hepatitis B virus, it is critical that you be under the care of your physician and liver specialist. Liver cancer is treatable and may in fact be curable if diagnosed early.