Many of your patients will likely need to be screened for hepatitis C, which means that they will have many questions during the testing process. This blog geared to patient education can help your patients understand each step of what can be a stressful time in their lives.
Q: Do I really need to be tested for the hepatitis C virus?
A: Testing for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is recommended for all Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) as well as anyone with a risk factor (such as history of injection drug use) or signs of liver disease.
Q: What is the hepatitis C test?
A: There are two main tests that can diagnose hepatitis C. The Hepatitis C Antibody Test looks for antibodies in the blood and the other test, the RNA Test, looks for RNA made by the virus. Sometimes both tests are needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Q: The test was positive for hepatitis C, now what?
A: If you test positive for the hepatitis C virus, the next step will be to find out which genotype you have. There are six genotypes of the hepatitis C. Knowing which one you have helps determine which treatment will be most effective. In the United States, genotype 1 is the most common, although genotypes 2, 3, and 4 also are seen in some patients.
Q: Are there other tests after that?
A: Sorry, but the testing process will continue. It will be necessary to determine if any liver damage has occurred, which can be done with blood tests, an ultrasound, and perhaps a liver biopsy. It is also prudent to check for additional infections, such as HIV and hepatitis B. If you have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, it’s a good idea to get that done now.
Q: What about treatment, can I get rid of this infection?
A: Although no one would ever want to have chronic hepatitis C infection, the good news is that there’s never been a better time to have this disease. There are now multiple highly effective medications that can clear this virus. These medications include: Epclusa, Harvoni, Sovaldi, Viekira Pak, and Zepatier.
Q: How’s my long-term prognosis?
A: If you faithfully follow your treatment plan, there is an exceedingly good chance that you will be cured of this infection. The degree of liver damage at diagnosis will give your doctor a sense of your long-term risks, but the outlook is positive for most patients.