World Hepatitis Day has been observed annually on July 28 for years to raise global awareness of hepatitis B and hepatitis C and encourage prevention, yet nearly 90 percent of Taiwanese still cling to the mistaken notion that “staying up late” is a major cause of liver cancer, according to a recent survey conducted by the Health Promotion Administration.
The telephone survey, conducted among 1,729 people aged between 25 and 64, showed that only 68 percent and 54 percent of the respondents accurately identified hepatitis B and hepatitis C as the major causes of liver cancer respectively.
More alarming is that while 90 percent of those polled are aware that hepatitis can be controlled by doctors through regular treatment and follow-ups, nearly 30 percent of respondents who have the disease have never sought treatment, the survey showed.
Among them, 88 percent said they did not seek medical care because they did not show any worrisome symptoms, while 8 percent said they were too occupied with other things to make time to do so, the poll indicated.
Nevertheless, the survey showed that nearly 60 percent of those with untreated hepatitis expressed a willingness to seek medical attention after being informed that the liver disease can be managed.
“People who have contracted viral hepatitis are urged to seek immediate treatment as the disease has been known as the ‘silent killer,’” Health Promotion Administration Director Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said.
According to statistics provided by the administration, an average of 13,000 Taiwanese die of liver disease each year, accounting for about 8 percent of the nation’s average annual number of deaths, more than diabetes (6 percent) and high blood pressure (3 percent).
Citing a 2005 study by Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital vice superintendent Yu Ming-lung (余明隆), the administration said the research found that patients with chronic hepatitis C who regularly receive anti-viral agents and interferon face a 65 percent lower risk of developing liver cancer.
“In addition, it also discovered that hepatitis B carriers can reduce the risk of liver cirrhosis by 47 percent and liver cancer by 78 percent if they receive regular treatment,” the administration said.
Other research also yielded similar results, the administration said, referring to a study published by National Yang Ming University’s Institute of Clinical Medicine professors Wu Jaw-ching (吳肇卿) and Wu Chun-ying (吳俊穎) earlier this month that showed that hepatitis B carriers who are regularly treated with anti-viral medicine can reduce their risk of liver cancer by 63 percent.
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