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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • cirrhosis;
  • counselling;
  • hepatitis;
  • hepatitis C;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • lifestyle;
  • liver disease;
  • transmission

Summary.  Counselling of patients with chronic hepatitis C infections is often limited to discussions regarding how the virus is transmitted and what can be done to decrease the risk of transmission to others. The purpose of the present study was to document the principal concerns of newly diagnosed and follow-up patients with chronic hepatitis C, and thereby enhance counselling strategies and content. Seventy newly diagnosed and 115 follow-up patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection were initially asked in an open-ended manner (volunteered concerns) and then to prioritize from a prepared list of seven potential concerns (prioritized concerns), to identify those concerns that were of utmost importance to them. The most common volunteered concerns of newly diagnosed patients in decreasing order were: disease progression (27%), premature death (19%), infecting family members (13%), side-effects of treatment (11%) and miscellaneous others. In decreasing order, prioritized concerns included: infecting family members, development of liver cancer, infecting others, development of cirrhosis, social stigma of having liver disease, need for liver transplant and loss of employment. The principal volunteered and prioritized concerns of follow-up patients were similar to those of newly diagnosed patients. Volunteered and prioritized concerns were relatively consistent across the different genders, age groups, ethnic backgrounds, education level, marital status, employment, modes of viral acquisition and in the case of follow-up patients, duration of follow-up. These results indicate that health care providers who focus counselling efforts exclusively on viral transmission are unlikely to address other important concerns of newly diagnosed and follow-up patients with chronic HCV infection.