After initial infection of HCV, 75-85% of people develop chronic infection by 6 months and out of them 60-70% will develop chronic liver disease. About 20% to 30% of people with chronic HCV will develop cirrhosis over a 20- to 30-year period, and 1-4% case every year develop liver cancer, especially in patients with alcohol addiction, co-infected with Hepatitis B, HIV.
If you have cirrhosis, the scarred tissue in your liver gradually replaces healthy tissue and scarring makes it difficult for liver to function properly.
Cirrhosis is divided into two categories: Compensated and decompensated
Compensated Cirrhosis: The liver is heavily scarred but can still perform many important bodily functions. Many people with compensated cirrhosis experience few or no symptoms and can live for many years without serious complications. But it is important to remember that HCV disease progression is not linear; that is, the process speeds up after certain level so it is critical for people to take the necessary steps to make sure that they are receiving the appropriate medical care, which may include HCV therapy to help slow down or stop the disease and progression process.
Decompensated Cirrhosis: The liver is extensively scarred and unable to function properly. People with decompensated cirrhosis eventually develop many symptoms and complications that can be life threatening.
Like all organs in your body, your liver can get cancer. When this happens, some of the cells in your liver reproduce faster than they should, leading to tumors and other problems. People with Hepatitis C are at increased risk of liver cancer once they get to the stage of cirrhosis. As such, it’s important for you to undergo certain type of test to determine if you have cirrhosis. Remember that people with cirrhosis can feel fine and have no symptoms in the early stage.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer, the third most common cause for cancer death in the world, a major cause of death in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection, and responsible for approximately one million deaths each year. It is difficult to recognize early symptoms of liver cancer and the sickness is easily ignored. When progression to liver cancer has been detected, it becomes difficult to treat and there are high mortality rates. Detection of HCC at an early stage is critical for a favorable clinical outcome. However, liver cancer is considered the most preventable cancer by reducing exposure to known risk factors for this disease.
When cancer is only limited to liver, the survival rate at 5 years is 28%. Developing cancer to the adjacent organs via spreading through nearby lymph nodes, 5 year survival rate is at only 7%. If Cancer has spread to distant organs, survival rate at 5 years is only 2%.
When someone has advanced liver disease and their liver is severely damaged, it may no longer be able to function. The person may have yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), have fluid in their legs or abdomen (ascites), have bleeding from their stomach or esophagus (varices), or be confused (hepatic encephalopathy). At this point, a liver transplant is considered.
Without treatment, chronic Hepatitis C can be very serious. But recent advances have made treatment shorter in duration, more tolerable and more effective. It’s an exciting and hopeful time for people with Hepatitis C as treatment is rapidly changing for the better.