Doctors urge men over 45 to have check for Hepatitis B

Doctors are calling for men over 45 to get themselves checked for Hepatitis B, as the virus is often a precursor to liver cancer. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Doctors are calling for men over 45 to get themselves checked for Hepatitis B, as the virus is often a precursor to liver cancer. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Doctors are calling for men over 45 to get themselves checked for Hepatitis B, as the virus is often a precursor to liver cancer.

Compulsory infant Hepatitis B vaccination was only implemented from 1987 and adults born before then may not have been vaccinated.

Hepatitis B often shows flu-like symptoms and may be hard to detect. 

Associate Professor Stephen Chang, senior consultant of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS), said: "They may be Hepatitis B carriers without their being aware of it, and Hepatitis B carriers are at significantly higher risk of developing liver cancer."

Early stage liver cancer is often hard to detect as it shows few symptoms.

Dr Thomas Soh, associate consultant at the Department of Haematology-Oncology at NCIS, said: "By the time symptoms become obvious, the cancer often has become advanced and is therefore difficult to treat."

Liver cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and third most lethal. Between 2009 and 2013, more than 2,000 men here were diagnosed with it.

Doctors advised those with Hepatitis B to go for regular cancer screenings.

Mr Jack Lee, 73, found that he had Hepatitis B 11 years ago when he was hospitalised for a stroke.

"I was shocked, there were no symptoms," he said. Through regular checkups following the discovery, liver cancer was detected at the early stage. From 2008 to 2012, he went through four surgeries to treat his cancer.

"Many in the older generation do not want to go for health checks because they don't want to find out what diseases they have," said Mr Lee, who is now in remission. "But check-ups might save your life."

For more on liver cancer, go to www.ncis.com.sg. For more about the Liver Disease Awareness week on Sept 21 to 28, go to hpba.sg.