Nancy Reau, MD: Concerns Over the Increase in Liver Disease

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More patients are presenting with later stage liver cancer due to missed screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the main concerns following the COVID-19 pandemic is the substantial increase in alcohol use.

While there are obvious short-term risks involving alcohol, the long-term risks of liver damage and disease can be fatal.

In an interview with HCPLive®, Nancy S. Reau, MD, The Richard B. Capps Chair of Hepatology, Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, Rush Medical College, explained how concerning the increase in alcohol use in recent years is to hepatologists.

“Alcohol use, as well as fatty liver, were both on the rise pre-pandemic,” Reau said. “But they definitely increased significantly (during the pandemic) as individuals were separated during their social networks. We have seen a huge increase in alcoholic hepatitis in the younger population."

Reau also said liver cancer screenings have decreased in recent years from the pre-pandemic statistics, which is leading to more severe outcomes.

“We have seen in the patients that present with liver cancer that it is more advanced,” Reau said.

Reau said even during the pandemic there was screenings done in urgent care and emergency departments and screening never took a hit. However, the linkage to care for patients with HCV was where the pandemic had an impact.