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Liver Cancer (cont.)

Liver Cancer Prevention

In the modern world, unfortunately, another evaluation becomes important in deciding what type of treatment to pursue: the financial one. While many of the techniques described above are effective in some patients, they are not necessarily always covered by insurance plans. Costs of the machines and drugs can be prohibitive to individuals: radioembolization can cost more than $90,000 for a single treatment; sorafenib is more than $5,000 for a month of therapy. This can make individual and institutional decisions even more heart-wrenching than usual on a personal level. At a societal level, these kinds of costs associated with treating this cancer makes it even more crucial to find ways to avoid developing it in the first place.

Theoretically, hepatoma should be an almost entirely preventable disease. Hepatitis, alcohol abuse, and obesity could all be avoided through social, medical, and lifestyle changes. Some of this has already been attempted around the world, so there is cause for optimism. For instance, children in Taiwan have been immunized against hepatitis B since 1984. This has led, so far, to a 70% decrease in the rate of teenagers developing hepatoma. In the United States, where the incidence is already much lower than it is in Asia, hepatoma due to hepatitis B has fallen by half since immunization began. While there is not yet a vaccine against hepatitis C, this is a much easier virus to avoid now that blood products are being screened and people are more aware of preventing infection from used needles. Once someone is infected, treatment with the drug interferon can reduce the chance of developing hepatoma dramatically. Diabetes and obesity, clearly, can be reduced by modifications in diet and lifestyle, as difficult as that obviously continues to be in our society.

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