Improved screening of patients at risk of hepatitis B is the aim of a new pilot project underway in Victoria, with early diagnosis and treatment crucial to reduce the risk of liver cancer.
Cancer Council Victoria and Burnet Institute's Screening for Hepatitis in At-Risk Populations (SHARP) project will trial four new interventions to help diagnose hepatitis B in GP clinics.
The project is targeting patients from countries where hepatitis B is endemic, including Somalia, Sudan, China and Vietnam.
An electronic risk assessment tool is being trialled at a Flemington based medical clinic as part of the pilot. Patients are being invited to complete a survey on a tablet computer before their consultation.
Targeted community education, GP training and an electronic reminder for the GP to test patients who are at risk will also be tested in the pilot.
Burnet Institute Research Fellow and project lead Dr Jess Howell said the electronic risk assessment tool helps to identify patients or families from countries with a higher risk.
"Hepatitis B often shows no symptoms," Dr Howell said.
"There are more than 218,567 Australians living with hepatitis B, but 43 per cent of these cases are undiagnosed .
"If no action is taken chronic hepatitis B can slowly damage the liver and lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
"The easier identification of the patients who have a high-risk will help to prompt the doctor to test for hepatitis B.
"This has the potential to reduce the spread of the disease and improve patient outcomes."
Cancer Council Victoria Manager of Priority Populations Chris Enright welcomes the project that will help to educate at-risk-populations and GPs about hepatitis B.
"Hepatitis B is one of the biggest known risk factors for primary liver cancer in Australia," Ms Enright said.
"Around 1400 Australians are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year .
"Early detection of chronic hepatitis B can halve an individual's risk of getting liver cancer."
Patients are encouraged to speak to their GP about hepatitis B. Visit cancervic.org.au/preventing-cancer/hep-b-liver-cancer for further information.