LIVER CANCER is the second most leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide and has an incidence of approximately 850,000 new cases. Mortality owing to liver cancer has increased in the past 20 years and latest estimates also indicate that global health burden of this disease will continue to grow.
With little or no symptoms at onset, HCC is also defect to detect and patients are diagnosed only at an advanced stage, severely impacting overall survival chances. Overall 5-year survival rate for advanced HCC is less than 5%, further proof that the disease is deadly.
Talking at Singapore event on Liver Cancer Awareness organized by Bayer, Prof Josep M. Llovet, emphasized on the co-relation of Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C infections (HCV) to HCC incidence. He mentioned that about 400 million people are infected with HBV globally, with 0.2% having chronic hepatitis and 2% having cirrhosis per year, thus running the risk of developing into HCC. Further, there are 170 million people worldwide infected with HCV, with 0.3% having chronic hepatitis and 3-7% having cirrhosis per year, again running the risk of developing into HCC as a result.
Liver cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, resulting in 800,000 lives lost each year. What many people don’t know is that a staggering 80% of deaths are caused by viral hepatitis, a disease that has preventative vaccines (hepatitis B) and a curative treatment (hepatitis C), meaning that over 600,000 liver cancer deaths each year are avoidable.
If the majority of these deaths are entirely preventable, why does liver cancer continue to claim the lives of so many? And how do we begin to count that in terms of children who have lost a parent, people who have lost a friend, societies that have lost a great mind? The answer is simple; 95% of people living with viral hepatitis are unaware of this, and of those who do know their status, less than 1% have access to life-saving medical interventions.
Last year, at the 69th World Health Assembly, 194 countries adopted the World Health Organization’s first-ever Global Health Sector Strategy for viral hepatitis, which presents a clear commitment to eliminate hepatitis B and C by 2030. Combatting these cancer-causing viruses by 2030 is also a target of the Sustainable Development Goals. If these commitments are upheld by governments, we can greatly reduce the number of cancer deaths globally.