Liver cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death globally and although it is less common in the United States, both the number of new cases and the number of people dying from liver cancer are increasing in this country. The number of new cases of liver cancer in the United States is highest among Asian Americans. Certain types of hepatitis virus, including hepatitis B virus (also known as HBV or HepB), are a major cause of liver disease and liver cancer. Chronic, or long-term, infection with HepB can cause hepatitis, an inflammation (swelling) of the liver. Over time, the damage to the liver can lead to liver cancer. HepB spreads through contact with blood or other body fluids from a person who is infected with the virus. It can also spread from an infected mother to her infant at birth.
Asian Americans have a higher risk for being infected with HepB than people of other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Approximately 1 in 12 Asian Americans is living with a chronic hepatitis B infection. But too few Asian Americans know about HepB, and many are not aware that they may be infected with the virus. There are several things to protect oneself and others from hepatitis B infection. A simple blood test from can check to see if an individual is infected. If the blood test comes back positive, the health care provider may conduct further tests and may recommend treatment.
There is no cure for HepB but treatment is available to reduce the inflammation and slow liver damage. HepB can be prevented with a vaccine. The vaccine is given in three shots over 6-months, and all three shots must be given to be fully protected. The vaccine is safe for people of all ages, including pregnant women and infants. In fact, the vaccine is now given routinely to infants in the United States and is recommended for anyone who is at risk of becoming infected.
In 2013, the Asian Health Coalition (AHC) and its community partners launched the “Don’t Hepatitis B Win” Campaign which is the first community-driven initiative in the state of Illinois that targets foreign-born individuals from countries in Asia and Africa with high rates of HepB. To learn more about the Campaign please click HERE.