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.
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 ribavirin. And if you were on one of the protease inhibitors, you cannot use hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills, patches, implants, rings or injections) because the protease inhibitors stop hormonal birth control from working well.
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 you developed cirrhosis (severe scarring) due to the Hepatitis C infection, you’ll likely be monitored with the following tests even if you cleared the infection:
- 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.
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.
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. .
It’s a very exciting and hopeful time for people with HCV as treatment is rapidly changing for the better. We are seeing increasing cure rates, shorter treatment options and anticipate an all-oral regimen for most people in the not-too-distant future.