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For the estimated 3.2 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis C, talking to a physician about treatment options for the disease now is an important first step. Untreated chronic hepatitis C may lead to serious health consequences, including cirrhosis – or permanent scarring of the liver – liver failure and liver cancer.
Following a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C, a patient should ask their physician whether the liver is already damaged and whether they should begin treatment. The long-term consequences of not treating chronic hepatitis C may increase over time. The longer a patient waits to get treated for chronic hepatitis C, the more likely they are to experience severe liver damage that may make it more difficult to treat the infection.
“Guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocate testing baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 for chronic hepatitis C today,” says Dr. Eirum Chaudri, executive director of medical affairs at Merck. “As liver damage progresses, the likelihood of responding to treatment decreases; so testing is critical to disease identification and management.”
Anyone can be infected with chronic hepatitis C, but certain populations are more at risk than others including baby boomers, veterans and Hispanic-Americans. Given that these populations are at greater risk for the disease, it is important that they consider getting tested for hepatitis C. Testing for hepatitis C can be done with a blood test.
Patients with chronic hepatitis C should feel comfortable discussing their condition with their physician, including their treatment options. Healthcare providers are the best source of information about your medical condition.
Merck and the American Liver Foundation are teaming up to urge Americans to take action and learn more about chronic hepatitis C today. Visit www liverfoundation.org to learn more.