The road to recovery is much faster and simpler than ever before

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There are so many benefits to seeking treatment for hepatitis C. Leading expert Dr Tuck Meng Soo explains what is involved.

There are so many benefits to seeking treatment for hepatitis C. Leading expert Dr Tuck Meng Soo explains what is involved.

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Better long-term health is just one of the many improvements people can look forward to when they are cured of hepatitis C explains Dr Tuck Meng Soo OAM.

Dr Soo is an expert in the treatment of hepatitis C.

She has been a general practitioner since 1993 and has worked for Interchange General Practice for the last  23 years.

In 2015, Dr Soo was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her work in Canberra community.

Over the years, Dr Soo has successfully treated many people with hepatitis C.

March 2016, marked a major turning point in the effort to cure hepatitis C when new revolutionary direct-acting antiviral medications were listed on the Australian Government Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Hepatitis C cures are available and affordable for all Australians who have a Medicare card.

"It is such a big contrast to the old treatment, where the success rate could be as low as 40 per cent. Now it is over 95 per cent." 

"The previous treatment was unpopular due to the severe side-effects, and we only treated people where there was a medical need."

"Now we don't anticipate anyone getting any serious side-effects," says Dr Soo.

It is a very safe and well-tolerated treatment.

Dr Tuck Meng Soo

"Very occasionally, there may be nauseousness or tiredness, but I haven't come across this in any patients I've treated so far.

"When treating people for hepatitis C, we are now also seeing the positive effects on their mental health.

"They have so much more energy and can get more done with their lives."

Who needs a hepatitis C test?

"It is estimated that 10 per cent of those with hepatitis C are unaware they have the virus," says Dr Soo.

"For those now in their forties and fifties, it could well be they contracted hepatitis C in their twenties."

Hepatitis C virus lives in the blood and is transmitted when infected blood from one person gets into someone else's bloodstream.

It can make people feel run down, so if you are struggling with your energy levels, it might be more than just feeling tired and getting older.

Many people with hepatitis C have few or no symptoms, however, hepatitis C can damage the liver slowly and silently. That is why it is important to get tested.

It is important to know that testing for hepatitis C is not included in normal blood tests, this is something you have to ask your GP for.

The source of the infection is not important, what is important is that hepatitis C can be cured.

The first step is simple

Getting started on the road to being cured is easy, all it takes is making an appointment with your GP.

"A blood test for hepatitis C antibodies will tell if there has been exposure to the virus," says Dr Soo.

A positive antibody test does not mean the patient currently has hepatitis C. Twenty-five per cent of people will clear the virus on their own whilst others will go on to develop chronic hepatitis C.

If the antibody test is positive the GP will order other tests to see if there is the hepatitis C virus in the blood and how it is affecting the patient.

"Once the patient has completed all the tests, their GP will be able to advise them on the right course of treatment," says Dr Soo.

"Most of the time, it is just one tablet daily for eight to twelve weeks. All GPs can prescribe this treatment."

Why seek treatment

Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

If diagnosed and treated early, even a damaged liver has a remarkable ability to repair and regenerate.

Curing hepatitis C substantially reduces the risk of liver cancer and liver failure, Dr Soo explains it can also have an impact on mental wellbeing.

"A large number of people who have been treated for hepatitis C have reported a positive impact on their mental health."

Brighter futures: For those diagnosed with hepatitis C the future is brighter with the road to recovery much faster and simpler than ever before.
Jim is now free of the disease and has a new lease on life. You can read his story, just click here.

Brighter futures: For those diagnosed with hepatitis C the future is brighter with the road to recovery much faster and simpler than ever before. Jim is now free of the disease and has a new lease on life. You can read his story, just click here.

About Hepatitis ACT

​Hepatitis Australia and Hepatitis ACT are encouraging people to come forward for screening and also take advantage, if necessary, of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’s inclusion of new anti-viral medicines. 

The aim is to have Australia free of hepatitis C by 2030.

TEST CURE LIVE

At the beginning of 2019, Hepatitis Australia launched the Test, Cure, Live campaign to prompt people to get tested if they think they might be at risk, and for people with hepatitis C to seek treatment.

The campaign includes a podcast series #MakingHepatitisCHistory, which features people sharing their stories of being cured of hepatitis C.  

There is a wealth of valuable information to be found on the TEST CURE LIVE website

More information and support

You can call the Hepatitis Australia national information line on 1800 437 222.

You can also call Hepatitis ACT for support and information from Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm on (02) 6230 6344.

This is sponsored content for Hepatitis ACT

This story The many benefits of seeking treatment first appeared on The Queanbeyan Age.