Monday, July 15, 2013

Hepatitis B leading to high rate of liver cancer among Asian Americans

Cancer is the leading cause of death for Asian Americans. The most common types of cancer for Asian Americans are liver cancer, stomach cancer and cervical cancer. Breast cancer has also been increasing among Asian Americans. 

Approximately 1 in 12 Asian Americans live with a chronic hepatitis B infection, but too few Asian Americans know that chronic hepatitis B infection is a risk factor for liver cancer.

Hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted from mother to child, which is why vaccination of infants is most important. Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse with someone who is infected.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has launched a campaign to educate the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community on the risks of hepatitis B infection. The Know Hepatitis B campaign is the first national multilingual, multi-year communications campaign to increase hepatitis B testing among AAPIs. The campaign aims to improve awareness, advocate for improved testing, improve care and treatment and improve health outcomes for AAPIs. 

Hepatitis B affects ones livelihood and mental health. Many individuals who have hepatitis B perceive the effects of stigma from the disease, which affects their contributions and impact in one’s family and community. Not addressing hepatitis B could have grave societal and cost implications and further isolate the AAPI community. It is important to implement culturally appropriate programs and outreach so that more AAPIs will be aware of the disease and get screened. Many nonprofit organizations works directly with community members to hold screenings, public events and educational receptions. After the free screenings, the organizations pass on the results of the blood tests and if any are found positive, the organization connects patients to care or treatment. It is important for the outreach organizations to use the native language, especially among older generations. 

One of the obstacles some AAPIs, including Vietnamese, face is that they either do not have health insurance or they do not have access to primary care doctors. They want to come but they don’t have the means to come. The organizations have to ask support from local agencies and also private donors to help them out with that.

Hepatitis b affects many Asian communities and it’s known to be a silent killer. As many of the people that are part of these communities come from countries where there’s a high prevalence rate for hepatitis and so that’s why the awareness program is so important. 

The National Cancer Institute advises everyone to get a blood test from their health care provider to see if   they are infected. If the blood test comes back positive, the health care provider will conduct further tests and recommend treatment.

Treatment for those with hepatitis B is available to slow liver damage. The hepatitis B infection is also preventable with a vaccine that involves three shots given over six months.


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