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Hepatitis B - Article
ABSTRACT: Hepatitis B causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. More than 400 million persons, including 1.25 million Americans, have chronic hepatitis B. In the United States, chronic hepatitis B virus infection is responsible for about 5,000 annual deaths from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis B virus is found in body fluids and secretions; in developed countries, the virus is most commonly transmitted sexually or via intravenous drug use. Occupational exposure and perinatal transmission do occur but are rare in the United States. Effective vaccines for hepatitis B virus have been available since 1982; infant and childhood vaccination programs introduced in the 1990s have resulted in a marked decrease in new infections. Risk factors for progression to chronic infection include age at the time of infection and impaired immunity. From 15 to 30 percent of patients with acute hepatitis B infection progress to chronic infection. Medical therapies for chronic hepatitis B include interferon alfa-2b, lamivudine, and the nucleotide analog adefovir dipivoxil.
ABSTRACT: Hepatitis C virus is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States. The advent of new treatment regimens using pegylated interferons in combination with ribavirin has led to improved sustained viral response rates for some genotypes in large multicenter trials. Advances in the management of side effects and toxicities have expanded the pool of treatable patients. A recent National Institutes of Health consensus conference recommended that all patients who have bridging hepatic fibrosis and moderate inflammation together with detectable viremia should receive treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Unfortunately, these medications are very expensive and have significant side effects. Hematologic toxicities include anemia and leukopenia. These can be managed with close monitoring, use of growth factors, or dose reductions. Depression also can be caused or exacerbated by these medicines and may require treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, comanagement with psychiatry, or cessation of pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment. Contraception is imperative because ribavirin is highly teratogenic. Influenza-like symptoms of fatigue, nausea, and mild fevers can be helped by quality patient education and support including frequent office visits. Data from randomized controlled trials demonstrating improvements in long-term survival as a result of treatment are not yet available, but it appears that patients who have no detectable virus six months after treatment have a good chance of remaining virus free for at least five years.
ABSTRACT: The incidence of malignant melanoma has increased in recent years more than that of any other cancer in the United States. About one in 70 people will develop melanoma during their lifetime. Family physicians should be aware that a patient with a changing mole, an atypical mole or multiple nevi is at considerable risk for developing melanoma. Any mole that is suggestive of melanoma requires an excisional biopsy, primarily because prognosis and treatment are based on tumor thickness. Staging is based on tumor thickness (Breslow's measurement) and histologic level of invasion (Clark level). The current recommendations for excisional removal of confirmed melanomas include 1-cm margins for lesions measuring 1.0 mm or less in thickness and 2-cm margins for lesions from 1.0 mm to 4.0 mm in thickness or Clark's level IV of any thickness. No evidence currently shows that wider margins improve survival in patients with lesions more than 4.0 mm thick. Clinically positive nodes are typically managed by completely removing lymph nodes in the area. Elective lymph node dissection is recommended only for patients who are younger than 60 years with lesions between 1.5 mm and 4.0 mm in thickness. In the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Trial, interferon alfa-2b was shown to improve disease-free and overall survival, but in many other trials it has not been shown to be effective at prolonging overall survival. Vaccine therapy is currently being used to stimulate the immune system of melanoma patients with metastatic disease.