NVHR: Stop Liver Cancer ‘Dead in Its Tracks’ By Closing Funding Gap for Viral Hepatitis Education, Screening Programs
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — With most liver cancer caused by undetected or untreated hepatitis B or C viral infection, the 22,000 new cases of liver cancer that are diagnosed each year could be dramatically reduced if Congress took decisive action to close the funding gap for federal viral hepatitis education, screening, and surveillance programs, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today. NVHR made the comments in conjunction with World Cancer Day 2010, which is being observed today and led by the International Union Against Cancer.
NVHR is a coalition of more than 150 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans. www.nvhr.org
“If policymakers are serious about reducing US cancer rates, including liver cancer, they should act immediately on the bipartisan Honda-Dent legislation to fully fund viral hepatitis education, screening, and surveillance programs for five million Americans,” said Ms. Lorren Sandt, Chair of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) and Executive Director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, OR. “Liver cancer is one of the three fastest growing cancer diagnoses in the US. Early detection and treatment of chronic viral hepatitis will stop the spread of liver cancer dead in its tracks and reduce transplant waiting times. This approach will dramatically reduce avoidable health care costs, improve quality, and allow millions of Americans to enjoy more productive lives. It’s a no brainer.”
Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and is one of the top ten occurring cancers in the US, annually striking an estimated 22,000 Americans. An overwhelming majority of liver cancers result from chronic viral hepatitis B or C infection. Because chronic viral hepatitis infection can be asymptomatic for decades, most Americans do not get tested and, consequently, do not know they are infected until their condition deteriorates to liver cancer, cirrhosis or liver failure. More than five million Americans – as many as 1 in 50 Americans – are afflicted with viral hepatitis and most are unaware they are infected. While chronic viral hepatitis strikes individuals from all walks of life, African Americans and Asian Americans are most at risk. In the US, liver cancer is the third-highest cause of cancer deaths among Asian Americans.
Bipartisan legislation pending on Capitol Hill, “The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act” sponsored by Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Charles Dent (R-Pa.), would close the viral hepatitis funding gap by providing $90 million in funding in 2011 and more thereafter. The Honda-Dent legislation would increase the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance, and referral to care efforts. Much of the Honda-Dent legislation tracks with recent recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in a landmark report addressing this public health crisis.
“As a practicing primary care physician of 28 years, I have seen first-hand how hepatitis infections can ravage patients and lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis, and even death. That’s why education, screening, and detection programs are so critically important,” said Dr. Mark Li, President of the Chinese American Medical Society, based in New York, NY. “As a silent disease, hepatitis is often ignored and it’s danger as a public health threat greatly underestimated. If we want to get serious about reducing US cancer rates, we need to address chronic viral hepatitis. The two go hand in hand.”
Earlier this week, the Administration released its 2011 budget proposal that continues to underfund the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis by providing just $21 million in 2011, compared with $25 million allocated annually a decade ago. In the absence of national leadership, the research firm Milliman estimates that public and private payers’ cost of treating chronic viral hepatitis C alone will more than triple by 2024 to $85 billion annually. Medicare and Medicaid would absorb a disproportionate share of these added costs, thereby worsening an already bleak fiscal outlook for our nation and the 50 states.
SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable