For people with chronic hepatitis B, the fear of developing liver cancer is always looming in the back of their minds. And rightfully so—liver cancer is one of the few cancers that is on the rise and chronic hep B is one of the main risk factors. So, can untreated hepatitis B lead to liver cancer? Let’s take a look at the science.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is spread through contact with blood or other body fluids from an infected person. Hepatitis B can be a serious, lifelong infection. It can cause chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. The most common symptoms of hepatitis B are fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Blood tests can identify if you have hep B, if it’s acute or chronic, and even if you’re immune to it. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but there are treatments that can help manage the virus and reduce the risk of liver damage. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is vaccination. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective, and it is recommended for adults as well as children who are at risk for the virus.
A hepatitis B carrier is someone who has the virus but does not show any symptoms of the disease. The virus is present in their blood and can be passed on to others through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva or semen. In most cases, carriers are only infectious if they are actively shedding the virus, which usually only occurs during times of acute illness or stress. However, some carriers may shed the virus constantly, which can put anyone they come into contact with at risk of infection. Carriers usually develop immunity to the virus over time and become less infectious, but they can still pass it on to others. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but carriers can manage the virus by taking care of their health and avoiding risky behaviours.
The Link Between Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer
There is a strong link between hepatitis B and liver cancer. In fact, chronic hepatitis B is responsible for about 80% of primary liver cancers worldwide. But how does hepatitis B lead to liver cancer?
Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver. The virus can cause inflammation and damage to the liver cells. When this happens, it creates an environment that is perfect for cancer cells to grow and thrive. The longer someone has hepatitis B, the greater their risk of developing liver cancer. In fact, people with chronic hepatitis B have a greater chance of developing liver cancer at some point in their lives.
Liver cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer, and it is often not caught until it is in its late stages. This is why it is so important for people with chronic hepatitis B to get regular screenings for liver cancer. If caught early enough, liver cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
Understanding Liver Cancer, Its Causes and Treatment Options
Despite being one of the most common cancers, liver cancer is still relatively poorly understood and difficult to detect in its early stages. As a result, many people only find out they have liver cancer when it is already at an advanced stage. One of the most important tools for detecting liver cancer is a multi-phase MRI/CT contrast liver scan. This scan uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) to create detailed images of the liver. The scan can help to identify tumours that would otherwise be undetectable. The scan can also help to determine the stage of the cancer, which is important for planning treatment. The multi-phase MRI/CT contrast liver scan plays a vital role in the detection and treatment of liver cancer.
The most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, typically develops in people who have liver damage or cirrhosis. Liver damage can be caused by alcohol abuse, hepatitis B or C infection, or fatty liver disease. Liver cancer frequent spread sites include the lymph nodes, lung and peritoneum. People with liver cancer often do not experience symptoms until the disease is quite advanced. When symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, weight loss, pain in the abdomen, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Liver cancer is usually diagnosed with a combination of blood tests, imaging tests, and biopsy. Treatment options include surgery, locoregional therapy such as TACE or TARE, external beam radiation therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. In some cases, liver transplant may also be an option.
Get Reliable Care and Treatment for Liver Cancer
To summarise, chronic hepatitis B is one of the main risk factors for developing liver cancer. Hepatitis B leads to liver cancer by causing inflammation and damage to the liver cells, which creates an environment that is perfect for cancer cells to grow and thrive. People with chronic hepatitis B should get regular screenings for liver cancer so that it can be caught early enough to be treated successfully.
At OncoCare, we are focused on regular screenings and detecting risk factors, as well as working with each individual patient through the different stages of their cancer diagnosis. Our team of oncologists and consultants provide accurate tests, workups, a full diagnosis, and we advise on the optimal treatment options, for your peace of mind. Schedule an appointment today at one of our conveniently located clinics to learn more about hep B and liver cancer.
“Expert knowledge means better care for cancer”
Dr Akhil Chopra
ABIM (USA)- Internal Medicine
ABIM (USA)- Hematology
ABIM (USA)- Medical Oncology
FAMS (Singapore)-Medical Oncology