Should you be tested for hepatitis C?
New treatments promise high cure rates with fewer side effects. But carefully consider the pros and cons of testing.
If you are a baby boomer born between 1945 and 1965, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) thinks you should be tested for infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Boomers are five times more likely than other adults to have HCV. The virus can reside silently in the liver for decades, where in a minority of people it may progress to fatal liver failure or cancer.
The CDC recommendation was spurred, in part, by recent advances in treatment. "Developments at the therapeutic front are proceeding at a blazing pace," says Dr. Raymond Chung, director of hepatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. An estimated 3.2 million or more Americans may be infected, and most don't know it.