The Delhi government is starting a low-cost screening programme for liver cancers at its Institute of Liver and Billiary Sciences (ILBS) from next week.
The first set of registrations for the programme, which will be screening for different types of liver cancers, will open on Sunday and will be on until April 25.
The screening will include blood tests for hepatitis B and C, a tumour marker test called AFP, ultrasound of upper abdomen and a specialised scanning called fibroscan of the liver that will be done at a subsidised cost of Rs 1,000.
Cancers of the liver, especially hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), are one of the most common cancers in the world.
According to World Health Organisation 2014 data, liver cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the world.
“Liver cancer has become very common and, unlike other forms of cancer, there are no preventive vaccines available. So screening high-risk people may help us diagnose this disease early and manage the spread,” an official said.
He said the screening tests which were available at private centres were often out of bounds for large sections of people due to the “prohibitive costs”.
In case any of the screening tests turns out to be positive, the patient will be referred to senior consultants for further advice and management.
According to specialists from ILBS, those with symptoms of cirrhosis and jaundice; those diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B or C; those with a history of co-morbid conditions like diabetes and obesity; and regular alcohol consumers are at a risk of liver cancer and need to be screened.
The Delhi government expects to screen an estimated 2,000 people under the programme.
Testing for viruses such as hepatitis C can also help diagnose cancer early, doctors said. These viruses can take up to 20 years to manifest symptoms after they enter the body.
“Testing blood for the presence of hepatitis C began in 1997. That is why we are also advising people who have undergone unsafe blood transfusion before 1997 to get themselves screened for hepatitis C. Healthcare workers, babies born to hepatitis C infected mothers and people who have undergone surgery in the past should get themselves screened,” the official said.