The British Liver Trust is calling for routine assessments of liver disease to occur in a primary care as new figures released today by the charity show that one in ten of the people who had a scan at their Love Your Liver roadshow in 2023 had a high reading and needed to be referred for further investigation. The roadshow is a mobile scanning unit that tours UK city centres. Members of the public can take an online screening test to assess whether they are at risk and then have a liver scan using transient elastography.
In 2023, the British Liver Trust took their roadshow to over 20 locations across the UK scanning over 2000 people. Almost 10% of attendees had liver scans that revealed potential indicators of liver disease.
Liver disease develops silently with no signs or symptoms. At the moment, three quarters of people are diagnosed with cirrhosis at a point when it is too late for effective treatment. People therefore often don’t realise they have a problem until the damage is irreversible. However, if found early damage can be halted and sometimes reversed.
Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said:
“These figures are particularly shocking because our roadshow is not specifically targeting people at risk. It allows anyone who happens to be in the town a chance to find out more about liver disease and to have a free non-invasive scan. Liver disease is therefore likely to affect far more people than previously thought.
“There’s a pressing need for widespread liver assessments in the UK. Every GP should be finding and testing people who are at risk - those who are overweight and with Type 2 diabetes or people who regularly drink too much alcohol. Most GP practices lack access to the tools they need (either a liver scan or an advanced blood test) to assess for fibrosis or scarring of the liver. In addition, we can all benefit from taking steps to improve our liver health and reduce our risk of liver disease.”
More than 90% of liver disease cases are preventable as they are linked to three main risk factors: obesity, alcohol and viral hepatitis. Although the liver is remarkably resilient, and can regenerate itself, it can only handle so much. However, most liver disease can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes.
This is why the Love Your Liver campaign is so important. It includes three simple steps to improve your liver health:
- Drink less than 14 units of alcohol and have three consecutive days off alcohol every week.
- Eat a healthy diet and take more exercise.
- Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested or vaccinated if at risk. There are now highly effective cures for hepatitis.
The liver is just as vital as the heart and lungs, yet many people are unaware just how important the liver is in keeping the entire body healthy. It carries out over 500 functions, including breaking down food to convert it into energy, fighting infections and removing toxins.
Veronica found out she had a fatty liver after having a liver scan at a Love Your Liver roadshow. She decided to change her diet in a bid to reverse her diagnosis. Three months later, her follow up Fibroscan reading was back within the normal range: “I realised that I would have a pastry in the morning and quite often if I had a biscuit, I’d end up sitting there eating a whole pack in front of the TV. But because I was eating healthy meals, I didn’t think too much about it. The shock really made me sit up and think, and I knew I had to do something fairly radical and lose a significant amount of weight to see a difference.”
January is Love Your Liver Awareness month, which is devoted to promoting good liver health and the prevention of liver disease. January is also a time when people often reassess their health after an indulgent festive period. The British Liver Trust is calling for every adult in the UK to make a pledge at the start of the year to improve their liver health by having a break from alcohol, taking on a fitness challenge, reducing sugar intake, ditching processed foods or eating 5-a-day.
The British Liver Trust is also urging people to take their confidential ‘At Risk’ screening tool: britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener