Community liver health checks are being offered to communities in Lancashire and South Cumbria as part of a pilot to catch more cancers earlier and save lives.
The liver health checks include a Fibroscan which is a quick and painless scan that can detect the signs of chronic liver disease like significant scarring or cirrhosis, which increases the risk of liver cancer.
It means that people at higher risk of liver cancer can be identified and monitored regularly to spot any early signs of the disease.
Checks are being offered to adults with diabetes, high BMI, high levels of alcohol consumption, or diagnosis of previous or current viral hepatitis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as these factors increase the risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver.
The scans will be available at a range of locations including GP practices, addiction services, foodbanks, sexual health clinics, homeless shelters and walk-in events in town centres to encourage the uptake of quick, non-invasive scans.
Dr Ioannis Gkikas, clinical lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria Hepatitis C Operational Delivery Network, said: “The liver health checks are a key part of our work with our partners to detect and prevent liver diseases and cancers.
“Cirrhosis, where there are high levels of scarring on the liver, is closely linked to hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of liver cancer. Even before cirrhosis develops, liver scarring, which is also called fibrosis, can occur, although this is often reversible if caught early.
“That’s why people who have risk factors such as diabetes, high BMI, chronic alcohol use, viral hepatitis or fatty liver disease must come forward for a scan. Early detection is our best defence and means that liver cancer can be prevented or cured.”
A mobile liver scanning unit will be coming to the following locations:
- Barrow, outside the town hall – Friday 20 October
- Lancaster, Sainsbury’s car park – Saturday 21 October
- Blackburn, near the town hall – Friday 24 November
- Burnley, outside Charter Walk Shopping Centre on St James’ Street – Saturday 25 November
People with lifestyle or health factors that might put them at higher risk of liver disease are welcome to have a quick and non-invasive walk-in liver scan. Anyone unsure about whether they are eligible can speak to the team at the scanning unit for more information.
Lukasz Sekula from Lancaster took up the offer of a liver scan. He said: “Having the scan was really easy and I’d definitely recommend anyone who is offered a check to have one.
“Because of it, the nurse was able to tell me where I can make changes in my lifestyle to reduce the chance of future health problems.”
Nationally, there are 6,100 diagnoses of liver cancer each year and the number of deaths from the disease in under-75s has gone up by almost 35 per cent in the last 20 years. It is an urgent local priority – in several areas of Lancashire and South Cumbria, there is a significant impact of liver disease on life expectancy.
Of those cases, only one in five is currently diagnosed at an early enough stage to treat, but this programme will help catch more cancers earlier, giving patients a much better chance of beating the illness.
Symptoms of liver cancer include unexpected weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting blood, and pain or swelling of the abdomen.
If anyone has symptoms of liver cancer, they should visit their GP straight away.