After Treatment Ends
Remember that Hepatitis C treatment is not forever. It will end and so will the many of the side effects. However, you should understand that some of the risks and side effects of treatment may last even after you’re finished. Regardless of the final treatment outcome, you should feel good about having tried your best and completing the process. That alone is a triumph!
One important thing to keep in mind after treatment ends is that you must continue to use two forms of birth control for six months following treatment with ribavarin. And if you were on triple therapy, you cannot use any hormonal birth because the new drugs (boceprevir and telaprevir) stop hormonal birth control from working.
Regardless of the outcome of your treatment, you will require follow-up blood tests and visits with your doctor at 6, 12, and 18 months. He or she will give you a specific schedule and instructions depending on your individual circumstances.
If the virus remains cleared from your blood at the 6-month mark after treatment has finished, you are considered “cured.” This is called a sustained virologic response (SVR), and data suggest that you will stay virus free indefinitely. Try to keep yourself as healthy as possible, keep your medical appointments and get regular check-ups. Remember that you could become re-infected if you expose yourself to high-risk situations such as injection drug use, and so do everything possible to avoid these situations. Speak with a substance abuse counselor if needed.
If you’ve completed treatment and it did not clear the virus from your blood, you may want to take a break, continue watchful waiting, and ask your doctor if being retreated is an option for you sometime in the future. This will depend on many things such as what drugs you’ve already been treated with, your general health, the results of your liver functions tests, biopsy and so forth. Keep in mind that even if the treatment didn’t completely get rid of the virus, it likely improved the overall health of your liver. You should continue to see your doctor every six months or more often if needed. If you developed cirrhosis (severe scarring) due to the Hepatitis C infection, you’ll likely be monitored with the following tests:
- Blood tests to see how well your liver is working
- Imaging tests, like ultrasound, a CT (computerized tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), every 6-12 months to make sure you don’t have liver cancer.
You’ll want to do your part to stay as healthy as possible by getting plenty of rest, eating well and not using alcohol or drugs that can further damage your liver. In addition, you can inquire about clinical trials for new Hepatitis C treatments. New and better treatments are becoming available as we learn more about the Hepatitis C virus.