Today’s guest blog, marking the start of Liver Cancer Awareness Month, is from Fiona Gordon, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust’s Consultant Hepatology and Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis Operational Delivery Network.
Over 6,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a primary liver cancer each year. This number has increased by 50% over the past decade and is expected to continue rising.
The most common form of liver cancer, Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), makes up around 85% of all liver cancers. Over half of these cases are currently diagnosed at stages 3 or 4.
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan we want to get earlier diagnoses for liver cancers to get better outcomes for the people we care for.
What causes liver cancer?
The main risk factor for liver cancer is cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, which can often go undiagnosed for many years before symptoms develop. You can be at risk of cirrhosis due to alcohol misuse, type 2 diabetes, obesity, or viral hepatitis.
• Liver cirrhosis is now a leading cause of death of British 35-49 year olds
• 75% are first diagnosed when they are admitted to hospital with an emergency and during this admission 1 in 6 people will die
• People experiencing deprivation have a four-fold increased risk of premature death from liver disease
How can I find out if I have cirrhosis?
With support from the Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon & Gloucestershire (SWAG) cancer alliance, the team at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) has developed a community living screening programme called ‘Alright My Liver?’.
At an ‘Alright My Liver?’ screening event, a specialist nurse will go through a short risk factor assessment followed by capillary blood tests for viral hepatitis and/or a FibroScan.
FibroScan is a quick, non-invasive bedside scan which can rule out or indicate liver cirrhosis. You can be in and out within 15 minutes. Watch our video online to see just how quick it can be.
In cases where we find concerning results, you will be referred directly into local liver services for clinical review and cancer surveillance.
‘Alright my Liver?’ started screening in July 2022, and between this date and the beginning of September 2023 we have since identified 2,537 people with significant risk factors for liver cirrhosis. 189 of these (7%) have been found to have results concerning for cirrhosis and brought back for liver specialist follow up.
We have found that 7% of these people had undiagnosed cirrhosis. They have been enrolled into regular ultrasounds to monitor for liver cancer.
Where can I get my liver screened?
It’s never been easier to get a liver screening in Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon, and Gloucestershire.
‘Alright my Liver?’ hold screening events at a variety of places within Bristol and the surrounding areas, including:
• GP Practices
• homeless health settings
• drug and alcohol organisations
• community centres and prisons
Many of our events are free to drop in for the public. A full list of drop-in locations can be found on our website.
If you think you may be at risk, or would like reassurance, please come to a drop-in screening event and get a free scan.