Massive Hepatitis B Impact on Liver Cancer

A new report about hepatitis B in Australia was released yesterday to coincide with World Cancer Day.

For the first time, national datasets are being used to indicate the current level of diagnosis, monitoring and treatment, as well as vaccination rates and outcomes of infection.

The second national report to be produced from Hepatitis B Mapping project has found that only 57 per cent of people living with hepatitis B have been diagnosed. Alarmingly, only 13 per cent are receiving guideline-based care.

“There are now over 220,000 Australians living with chronic hepatitis B,” said Associate Professor Benjamin Cowie, one of the report’s authors.

“Without appropriate management and treatment, up to a quarter of these people will develop advanced liver disease and/or liver cancer.”

Liver cancer is now the fastest growing cause of cancer death in Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it also has one of the lowest survival rates.

In 2014 the Australian Government released its National Hepatitis B Strategy 2014-2017. The Strategy set clear targets for diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, access to care, and immunisation.

“The national hepatitis B strategy sets a target to increase the proportion of people living with chronic hepatitis B who are receiving antiviral treatment to 15 per cent. It’s currently five per cent. Increasing uptake of treatment is a means to achieving a significant and sustained reduction in mortality attributable to advanced liver disease and liver cancer.”

The report serves as a benchmark against which progress in achieving the national priorities can be assessed. It provides detailed information at a national, state/territory and local area.

The first national hepatitis B mapping report highlighted the geographically uneven distribution of chronic hepatitis B across Australia, outlining the areas of Australia where the need for systematic responses to hepatitis B is greatest.

“As the priority populations affected by chronic hepatitis B are subject to broader health disparities, the report allows for awareness and intervention campaigns to be targeted in the most efficient and appropriate ways. Our aim is for it to be used for planning public health and clinical responses which can reverse the rising burden of hepatitis B related liver cancer nationally.” said A/Professor Cowie.

Future updates to the report will be used to monitor and evaluate the progress of Australia’s response to hepatitis B.

The National Hepatitis B Mapping Reports are the result of a partnership between the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) and the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute. Funding was from the Australia Government Department of Health.

·      Download the second National Hepatitis B Mapping Report