Hepatitis & Liver Cancer
One in 12 Asians has chronic hepatitis B. Surprisingly, two-thirds of those infected don’t know they have the disease. It can be diagnosed using a simple blood screening. Early detection and treatment can significantly reduce your risk for developing serious, possibly fatal, conditions that can occur when hepatitis B is left untreated. Vaccines are available to help prevent getting the disease.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that causes inflammation of your liver. It’s spread through blood, semen and other bodily fluids. It’s important to understand that hepatitis B isn’t spread through coughing, sneezing or sharing food and drink.
How Liver Conditions Impact the Chinese Community
Asians are at a higher than average risk of developing liver conditions. Asian Americans makeup only 5 percent of the U.S. population but account for more than 50 percent of chronic hepatitis B cases. Without medical monitoring or treatment, 1 in 4 of those chronically infected with hepatitis B will die from liver cancer or liver failure.
Other important facts:
- One in 12 foreign-born and 1 in 70 U.S.-born Asians is chronically infected with hepatitis B.
- Chronic hepatitis B causes 60 to 80 percent of liver cancer cases.
- Liver cancer has the highest mortality rateamong all cancers for the Chinese population.
- Santa Clara County has the third highest rate of liver cancer in the nation. San Francisco County has the highest.
- Chinese are three times more likely to develop and die from liver cancer than Caucasians.
Protect Yourself: Screening and Vaccination
Since chronic hepatitis B doesn’t always cause symptoms in its early stages, screening may be the only way to determine whether or not you’re infected. Mountain View Hospital (El Camino Hospital) provides free hepatitis B screening for uninsured and underserved people in the community. Call 650-988-3234 for more information.
If you test negative, you may want to consider getting vaccinated against the disease. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from developing the disease. If you have medical insurance, visit your primary care provider. The hepatitis B vaccine is covered by most insurance plans. If you do not have insurance, a free vaccination may be available to you from the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health.
If you’re infected with hepatitis B, you need to follow up with your doctor every six months — even if you feel healthy — to monitor liver damage and your liver cancer risk.