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Hepatitis

Childhood cancer survivors who received blood or blood products before screening tests were available for hepatitis B and C may be at risk for developing hepatitis, an infection of the liver.

In the United States, routine screening of blood donors for the hepatitis B virus began in 1971. For hepatitis C, the most accurate screening began in 1992. Screening in other countries may be different.

Blood Products That May Cause Hepatitis

Survivors may be at risk for hepatitis B (if transfused before 1972) and C (if transfused before 1993) if they received any of the blood products listed before routine blood donor screening began:

  • Packed red blood cells
  • Whole blood
  • Granulocytes (white blood cells)
  • Platelets
  • Fresh frozen plasma
  • Cryoprecipitate
  • Immunoglobulin preparations (IVIG, VZIG)
  • Bone marrow or stem cells from another person (allogeneic donor)

Other Risk Factors for Hepatitis

  • Blood-clotting proteins produced made before 1987
  • Solid organ transplants such as kidney, liver, or heart before 1993
  • Long-term kidney dialysis
  • Shooting or snorting drugs
  • Body piercings or tattoos
  • Sharing of razors, toothbrushes, or nail clippers with people who have hepatitis
  • Exposure to blood and body fluids in the workplace
  • High-risk sexual behavior (multiple sex partners, failure to use protection and anal sex)

Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis

Not all patients with hepatitis have symptoms when first infected. However, symptoms of hepatitis may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Severe itching
  • Pale stools

In rare cases, liver failure can result.

Sometimes hepatitis resolves without therapy and causes no further health problems.

People infected with hepatitis B or C as children may develop a chronic infection. Most people with chronic hepatitis do not have symptoms. But chronic infection can cause scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and other liver problems. Signs of liver damage include:

  • Swelling of the liver and spleen
  • Swelling or collection of fluid in the abdomen
  • Jaundice
  • Problems with blood clotting
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver.

Hepatitis is an infection of the liver.

What Survivors Can Do


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Reviewed: December 2019