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80% of people don't realise hepatitis C can lead to cancer, shows new research

Written by Samantha Lade, Donr

Published on Friday, 27th July 2018

80% of people don't realise hepatitis C can lead to cancer, says new research

New data released by The Hepatitis C Trust, to mark World Hepatitis Day, shows a widespread lack of awareness of the transmission risks and symptoms of the potentially deadly virus hepatitis C.

Despite 80% of respondents stating they thought they knew what hepatitis C is, less than 40% knew that it infects the liver, and less than 30% knew the virus is curable.

Symptom awareness is low, with only a third of respondents accurately identifying tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting and abdominal pains as signs of infection.

When asked how hepatitis C is transmitted, 30% incorrectly said it was through exchanging saliva. 

Less than half knew that symptoms are not always obvious and can go unnoticed, leading to people living for years without knowing they are infected.

If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and death. 

Between 2005 and 2014, deaths from hepatitis C related end-stage liver disease in England more than doubled, though are now beginning to fall due to new treatments.

The Hepatitis C Trust is now calling for increased community outreach efforts to ensure all those living with hepatitis C who are undiagnosed or out of touch with services are tested, treated and cured.

Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact and, contrary to popular myth, cannot be spread via spitting, coughing, sneezing or other physical contact.

It is preventable, treatable and curable for the vast majority of people.

People who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, people in the South Asian community, and people who received a blood transfusion prior to 1991 are those most at risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C, say the charity.

Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: 'With revolutionary new treatments available to all through the NHS, this new data shows clearly that the greatest challenges to tackling hepatitis C are dispelling misconceptions, raising awareness and minimising barriers to testing and treatment.'

Dr Helen Harris, Clinical Scientist, Public Health England, said: 'The results of this survey highlight the very low levels of awareness of hepatitis C and the factors that put people at risk of infection.

'It is crucial that people are tested and diagnosed, in order that they can access treatment early to clear the virus.'

For more information, visit the Hepatitis C website.