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The crucial screening test baby boomers are missing

March 20, 2017—Should you be screened for hepatitis C? If you're between the ages of 52 to 72, the answer is yes. But a new study suggests that many baby boomers—adults born between 1945 and 1965—aren't being tested.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can damage the liver. It's spread through infected blood or body fluids. And it can lead to liver scarring, liver disease, liver cancer and even death. It can take years or even decades before the virus causes symptoms. So the infection can often go undetected if a person isn’t screened.

Since 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that baby boomers get a one-time blood test for hepatitis C. But the study findings show that most adults still haven't been screened. In fact, only 10.5 of the 76.2 million U.S. baby boomers have gotten tested for hepatitis C. That could be because many boomers and their doctors don't know about the recommendation, the study authors say.

Why screening is important

Three out of four people with hepatitis C are baby boomers. But many of them aren't aware that they have the virus. Boomers may have unknowingly been infected if they received donated blood before 1992. (The year when the U.S. began checking blood donations for the virus.) They could have also been infected from high-risk behaviors (like injection drug use or having multiple sex partners). That's why getting tested is so important.

If you're a baby boomer, talk with your doctor if you haven't been screened. Hepatitis C can be treated, but it requires regular monitoring to prevent further liver damage.

To learn more about the study and its findings, read the study abstract.
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