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Thousands of Greater Vancouver residents may have fatty liver disease and not know it

The Canadian Liver Foundation offers fast and painless screening for adults across the region
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The Canadian Liver Foundation’s Liver Beware Project offers free testing to identify fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

It’s a shocking statistic: One in four Canadians may be affected by liver disease in their lifetime.

This is especially concerning because liver disease is often a “silent” condition, meaning its presence isn’t known until symptoms arise, at which time medical intervention may be too late.

Additionally, fatty liver disease — one of the most common types of liver disease, often caused by excessive alcohol consumption — is on the rise in Canada and is thought to be the primary indicator of the need for a liver transplant.

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease — there are some major public health issues associated with it, in Canada and across the world,” says Dr. Eric Yoshida, who received the prestigious Order of BC in recognition of his patient care and research related to liver disease.

“It’s a marker for poor health in many ways: metabolic syndrome, which includes diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke; obesity; an increased risk for cancer.”

Liver Beware Project

This potential lack of awareness and increase in diagnoses is why the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF), British Columbia/Yukon Region, launched the Liver Beware Project, offering free testing to identify fatty liver disease and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).

The project, which is open to adults in Greater Vancouver, was created with the goal of better understanding the prevalence of fatty liver disease and improving education and treatment among the general population.

HepBeware Project

As a complement to the Liver Beware Project, the CLF also established the HepBeware Project. In its inaugural year of 2018, the project screened an asymptomatic Asian population that didn't know its hepatitis B status. Among 2,700 participants, 2% tested positive. If the Asian population in Richmond is roughly 100,000, this would mean 2,000 or more people would have hepatitis B but don’t know it.

This led to the 2022 launch of HepBeware Phase II – Liver Beware FibroScan Screening Project, which screened the Lower Mainland population for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The specific screening process for this project not only identifies individuals with excess fat in the liver; it can also show if the liver has been damaged (in the form of, for instance, fibrosis or cirrhosis). The project is still ongoing at the moment.

“We're finding even young people have fatty liver disease,” says Dr. Yoshida. “And alcohol is only one of many potential causes. It’s often too many carbohydrates and too many calories consumed in our diet, and a sedentary lifestyle sitting in front of a computer or playing video games instead of being active.”

What you can do

The 2024 HepBeware Project – Phase II is running until September 1 at London Drugs pharmacy locations in Vancouver and Burnaby and is open to residents of Greater Vancouver (35 years and older) who aren’t aware of their liver status. The screening process is easy and needle-free.

The schedule for screenings is:

Until June 30

London Drugs Pharmacy

2230 West Broadway, Vancouver

July 6 – September 1

London Drugs Pharmacy

9855 Austin Avenue, Burnaby (Lougheed Town Centre)

Testing Hours

Every Saturday and Sunday

10 am – 5 pm

A tax-deductible donation of $20 or more is greatly appreciated. To book an appointment, please call 604-707-6430 or email [email protected].