Hepatitis C linked to higher rates of head, neck cancers
Right now, there are as many as 3.5 million people currently suffering from the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) within the United States. Most people contract the disease by sharing needles used for drugs, or through sexual transmissions and blood transfusions. Here is a scary thought: Most people who are infected have absolutely no idea, since there aren’t any particular symptoms associated with HCV.
HCV is a bloodborne liver infection that can spread throughout the body. Individuals who are infected could be at a higher risk of developing head and neck cancers versus people who aren’t infected with HCV. HCV is also commonly associated with cancers like tumors of live and blood malignancies, more commonly known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Dr. Harrys Torres is an associate professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center located in Houston, where his field of study is infectious diseases. Torres explains the process of HCV progression and expresses his concerns,
“The first step is to screen and treat infected patients, because antiviral treatment can prevent some cancers (e.g. liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) from ever developing. It remains to be shown whether curing the infection reduces the risk of head and neck cancers.”
Torres and his team tested more than 34,500 patients; within that group, they found that 409 people had developed head and neck cancerous growth.The findings suggested that individuals that are infected with HCV appear to develop neck and head cancers twice as often in comparison to people who don’t have HCV.
Luckily, HCV can be cured and has an excellent success rate into the 90 percent range. So, why is this cancer plaguing so many people? There aren’t any real mandatory screenings to see if you are infected. Dr. Thomas Quinn, who is part of the Hopkins and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggests that we start screening the entire population of the United States.
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