With prevention and treatment, hepatitis could someday be virtually non-existant.
Hepatitis B and C are serious viruses that affect 300 million people around the world, and yet – most don’t even realize they are infected. Hepatitis B is a virus that’s passed through body fluids (for instance, during intercourse or an infected razors or toothbrushes), and is typically less serious than hepatitis C. Hep C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as during childbirth or sharing needles. If not caught and treated, both can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and most severely, liver cancer.
The sad part is, hepatitis C is curable, and there’s a vaccine and an effective treatment for hepatitis B. Every year, World Hepatitis Day aims to recognize the progress that has been made so far to eliminate the condition, as well raise awareness, stress prevention and urge people who think they might have it to get tested to help stop the spread.
Symptoms often mimic those of other conditions, so it can be challenging to diagnose and treat even in developed countries; the situation is dire in poorer areas of the world with limited access to healthcare and lack of trained specialists. Left untreated, the condition causes more deaths than malaria or HIV/AIDS.
That’s where White Plains Hospital’s Dr. Sasan Roayaie plays a role. He’s been doing his part to help people around the world whose lives have been touched by hepatitis. A hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgeon who is highly specialized in the extremely complicated liver cancer surgeries, Dr. Roayaie has been taking his surgical techniques on volunteer missions to improve the standard of surgical care in countries such as Liberia and Haiti.
And for the last decade, Dr. Roayaie has made regular trips to Mongolia to train surgeons in the latest liver surgery techniques. Liver cancers often develop and grow next to vital structures and blood vessels that can’t be sacrificed and as a result, many surgeons, even ones with specialty training, will consider many of these cancers inoperable.
“Mongolia has the No. 1 incidence of liver cancer in the world and high rates of hepatitis B and C,” he explains.
Through his regular visits, Dr. Roayaie has been training surgeons to perform these operations independently and continue to offer patients hope. “What I’ve liked about my time in Mongolia is the feeling that I’ve done something with a long-term benefit,” he adds.
Physicians like Dr. Roayaie are helping to save some of the millions of lives that are lost every year due to complications of hepatitis. Someday, perhaps, it will no longer be necessary. World Hepatitis Day, this year on July 28, has a goal of eliminating hepatitis by the year 2030.
How can you help? Urge anyone you know who might display symptoms of hepatitis to get tested. To find a doctor at White Plains Hospital, call (914) 849-6963.