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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Be aware and get tested today

Hepatitis C is a liver infection that affects more than three million Americans, with 200,000 new cases reported each year. But the virus disproportionately affects members of the Baby Boomer generation—three in four hepatitis C patients were born between 1945-1965. 

This highlights the need for screenings in Boomers, as delays in detection can lead to permanent liver damage.  

“Hepatitis C is totally curable if it’s caught early,” said Geisinger primary care physician, Christian Shuman, M.D., “but as the leading cause of liver cancer and transplants nationwide, it’s important to be aware of the risks of hepatitis C and whether or not you have it.”

Testing and Diagnosis
Symptoms of hepatitis C include muscle or joint pain, nausea, stomach pain, yellowing of the eyes or skin, fatigue, poor appetite and diarrhea. 

“The most difficult part of treating hepatitis C is detecting it,” said Dr. Shuman. “Most people with the infection do not exhibit symptoms, and those who do may associate them with the effects of aging or a cold.”

When symptoms don’t raise a red flag, most patients are diagnosed when their doctor notices damage to the liver or a problem with the enzymes during a routine blood test. Untreated hepatitis C infections can lead to liver disease, lymphoma, kidney problems and joint deterioration. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver transplants.

Your doctor can screen for hepatitis C with a simple blood test. They will look for a unique antibody that appears as a byproduct of the infection. A positive diagnosis will also provide information on the type of hepatitis C. Hepatitis C has many different types with type 1 being the most common. Which type you have has a considerable impact on treatment, so you should always be aware of this factor. 

Transmission, stigma and the Baby Boomers
Hepatitis C is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood. It can’t be spread through casual contact like kissing, breastfeeding, coughing or sneezing. Contrary to popular belief, hepatitis C is rarely spread through sexual intercourse, though it is possible.

“Prevention starts with awareness,” said Dr. Shuman. “If you are diagnosed with hepatitis C you should avoid sharing shaving razors and toothbrushes, stop donating blood and use condoms for intercourse. You should also let any doctors know.”

Though any person can get hepatitis C, Baby Boomers and older Americans are the largest population with the infection. Experts believe this is because of improperly sterilized medical equipment and blood transfusions before infection control standards were put in place.

Tools used to administer vaccinations to members of the military are also believed to be a major source of infection. In fact, a recent study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found Vietnam War veterans are twice as likely to have hepatitis C. 

This research challenges the stigma long associating hepatitis C diagnoses with intravenous drug users, which may act as a barrier for diagnosis and treatment. 

“The stigma of hepatitis C can delay patients from seeking out a screening, speaking about their experience with friends or even pursuing treatment,” said Dr. Shuman. “But the sooner you get tested, the sooner you can be treated if you are diagnosed.”

Christian Shuman, MD, is a primary care physician at Geisinger Pottsville. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Shuman or another primary care physician, please call 570-624-4444 or visit
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