Hepatitis C patients make up the largest group of people needing liver transplants decades after they contract the disease. That's because most people with the liver inflaming infection don't know they have it until it's too late to reverse the damage. Nancy Naeve Brown met a Sioux Falls woman who found out a decade after she contracted it and is excited about a new treatment option offered at Avera McKennan.
Cheri Haron is excited to see her Hepatologist Dr. Hesham Elgouhari with Avera Medical Group Liver Disease after learning about a brand new FDA approved treatment option for Hepatitis C.
Dr. Elgouhari says, "Hepatitis C is a virus. What it does is primarily to the liver and causes inflammation of the liver, scaring of the liver or cirrhosis which could lead to cancer or liver failure."
Cheri says, "You have to listen to your body. If your body tells you to slow down I have to pace myself. I can't go out on a hot summer night with my friends and have a couple of beers."
Cheri is one of the unfortunate ones who contracted the virus in 1990 from a blood transfusion after giving birth to her first child via C-section. Improved blood screening tests didn't become available until 1992. It wouldn't be until 2005 that she would be diagnosed after feeling fatigued with flu like symptoms for a decade. The treatment at the time didn't work for her so 3 months after starting it she was taken off of it and today has cirrhosis because of it.
Cheri says, "3 million people have this chronic disease. 3 million people know they have it, but how many don't know it? It goes symptom less for years and years and years like it did with me. You need the right doctor, to do the right test at the right time or you won't know."
Hep C is a silent disease because the liver is a silent organ. It doesn't complain when something is wrong like the heart with chest pain or colon with diarrhea or lung with a cough often times it does undetected.
Dr. Elgouhari says, "This is very important. If you have risk factors, if you used drugs in your younger years, you had a blood transfusion in the 80s or 70s you have to be checked out for Hepatitis even if the doctor said your liver enzymes are normal you still need to get it checked. Now is the time."
In July the FDA approved a new treatment option for Hep C with promising results: there is a 70% plus chance people will benefit from the new drugs and be on it for a shorter amount of time.
Dr. Elgouhari says, "If someone responds from the treatment then they are cured from Hepatitis C. That means the risk of liver cancer, liver failure, cirrhosis all of that goes down significantly."
Cheri says, "A couple of years from now I would be disease free and my liver would be normal and maybe I can go out and have a beer."
And when that day comes, I want to be there to toast her good health!
We are going to follow Cheri as she starts the new Hepatitis C treatment and we'll see how Avera's team approach is crucial to the process