Doctors at National Taiwan University announced yesterday that the level of hepatitis B virus DNA recorded in patients’serum could serve as an effective indicator for early detection of liver cancer.
Chen Chien-jen, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Epidemiology at NTU and the leader of the project, urged the Department of Health to include serum HBV DNA screening as part of liver disease prevention measures.
In a longitudinal research conducted by Chen and his team, they traced 3,653 hepatitis B carriers from seven different townships and counties in Taiwan over a period of 11.4 years, from 1991 and 1992.
According to the research results, participants with persistent elevation of serum HBV DNA levels were at the highest risk for liver cancer.
Furthermore, said Chen, people with elevated levels of serum HBV DNA are six times more likely to develop liver cancer.
Chen also warned that hepatitis could be contracted by anyone, across all age groups, and recommended that people should have serum HBV DNA tests at least once every one to two years.
Studies show that in the very early stages of liver cancer there are little or no symptoms because the malignancy is too small to cause any physical discomfort. Symptoms usually occur as the tumor enlarges, resulting in pain in the right upper abdominal area, weight loss and loss of appetite, breast swelling in males, blood clotting problems leading to intestinal bleeding and bruises on the skin, and jaundice.