Liver disease is currently the fifth biggest killer in England and Wales, after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease. Yet surprisingly, out of the five, liver disease is the only major cause of death still increasing year-on-year; with one-in-five people now at risk . Yet, 94% of respondents to a recent survey by Siemens Healthineers admitted to being unaware that cases of liver disease were increasing.
Often billed as the ‘silent killer’, liver disease has become dangerously ignored in recent years. In fact, only 2% of respondents said liver disease was the medical condition they were most concerned about. Cancer is the greatest worry for six in ten (60%) UK adults, followed by stroke (17%), heart disease (13%) and diabetes (8%). All of which are decreasing in their prevalence.
Despite a number of education programmes, almost one in ten (9%) admitted to being unaware that high alcohol consumption was a key contributor to liver disease. In addition, around half of people were unaware that a poor diet, obesity and undiagnosed hepatitis infection could also lead to the disease.
“Generally, people are much more worried about suffering from cancer, a stroke, heart disease or diabetes than they are from having liver disease,” says Peter Harrison, Managing Director, Siemens Healthineers GB and Ireland.
“Whilst these diseases are all concerning, Liver disease is the only major cause of death still increasing year-on-year . The lack of awareness of liver disease causes and symptoms means that people may be unaware they have the disease until it is too late. But it needn’t be that way.
“Advancements in early diagnosis means that a trip to the GP for a simple and quick blood test, or a referral for an ultrasound can help to reduce the number of people with advanced liver disease. However, an even better approach would be screening to turn the tide against a growing problem that’s often unnoticed until it’s too late. “
A liver biopsy is currently recognised as the ‘gold standard’ for diagnosing and assessing liver damage, however it’s increasingly being viewed as an expensive, uncomfortable and potentially risky procedure. The need for a faster, safer and more effective method of diagnosis is more important than ever.
Siemens Healthineers’ offers a number of non-invasive tests which help diagnose liver disease early. The simple blood test known as ELF is now included in NICE guidelines, and can be carried out quickly and easily, following a visit to a GP.
"The discovery of the ELF markers represents a significant advancement in the diagnosis of patients with liver disease. Of particular benefit, the ELF test can help diagnose patients with mild-to-moderate liver fibrosis, which is usually asymptomatic, so that clinicians are able to intervene before significant damage to the liver occurs," adds Prof William Rosenberg, DPhil, UCL Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London.
Siemens Healthineers’ ultrasound technique, Virtual Touch Quantification™ (VTQ), can also help with early detection by assessing the stiffness of the liver based on readings from invisible, high-intensity waves transmitted through the liver.
Should you be worried that you may be suffering from liver disease, it is recommended you contact your local GP.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults aged 18 and over was undertaken on behalf of Siemens Healthineers by Arlington Research during January 2017.