By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Policy Consultant
A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology (JAMA) found that many newly-diagnosed cancer patients may be unaware of being infected with Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and/or HIV (Barrett, 2019). The study examined data from 3,051 patients who enrolled between 2013 and 2017 who received blood tests to determine their HBV, HCV, and HIV status, and is the largest study to date of these viruses in cancer patients.
Of the 3,051 participants, 6.5% of patients had HBV (0.6% with a Chronic HBV infection), 2.4% had HCV, and 1.1% had HIV. Of these patients, 87.3% of HBV-infected, 42.1% of Chronic HBV-infected patients, and 31% of HCV-infected patients were undiagnosed prior to this study’s screening. Researchers noted that these findings comport with infection rates in the general population (Ramsey, et al., 2019).
Most concerning is that many of those who were newly diagnosed with HBV and HCV had no identifiable risk factors for infection (e.g. – injection drug use). The researchers concluded that universal Viral Hepatitis screening of cancer patients may be warranted in order to prevent viral reactivation and other adverse clinical outcomes.
HEAL Blog has been calling for universal screening for years, not only for cancer patients, but for the general population. Numerous studies have found that routine rapid HCV testing (particularly in communities where drug use is prevalent) is incredibly cost-effective in both younger generations and older generations. Current CDC testing recommendations for HCV are incredibly narrow, focusing primarily on the Birth Cohort (1945-1965) and Injection Drug Users. Acute HCV infection data, however, indicate that people aged 18-55 are currently bearing the burden of new HCV infections. With these data in mind, it would be a smart move to expand those testing recommendations.
Undiagnosed and untreated HBV and HCV can both lead to serious health consequences; without universal screening, we will continue to see the hepatic and extra-hepatic impacts of Viral Hepatitis manifest in younger generations. These consequences are not only difficult to endure for patients, but are also incredibly expensive to treat. It is time for the CDC to welcome itself into the 21stCentury and expand screening to all adults.
- Ramsey, S.D., Unger, J.M., Baker, L.H., et al. (2019, January 17). Prevalence of Hepatitis B Virus, Hepatitis C Virus, and HIV Infection Among Patients With Newly Diagnosed Cancer From Academic and Community Oncology Practices. The Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology. Published online January 17, 2019. DOI: doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.6437
- Barrett, J. (2019, January 23). Study: Many Cancer Patients Unaware of Hepatitis Infections. Cranbury, NJ: Pharmacy & Healthcare Communications, LLC: Specialty Pharmacy Times: News. Retrieved from: https://www.specialtypharmacytimes.com/news/study-many-cancer-patients-unaware-of-hepatitis-infections
Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.