Do I need to be screened for hepatitis C?

Ask the doctors

Q. I recently saw something recommending that older Americans get screened for hepatitis C. I'm 68 years old. Should I be screened?

A. Yes. Since 2012, the CDC has recommended that all adults born from 1945 to 1965 be tested for hepatitis C, a bloodborne virus that affects anywhere from 2.7 million to 3.9 million Americans — many of whom don't know they have the condition. Hepatitis C can go undetected in the body for years, eventually leading to cirrhosis, liver damage, and liver cancer. You may be at risk even if you don't think you have any risk factors for the disease, which is most commonly transmitted today through intravenous drug use. People born from 1945 to 1965 are five times more likely than other Americans to have hepatitis C, although experts aren't sure why this is the case, according to the CDC. It's possible that some people were infected during health care procedures or blood transfusions that took place before the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. A study published in the April 2018 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that less than 13% of these individuals have had the test. Since you're one of those who hasn't, it's a good idea to call your doctor and make a screening appointment.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »