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Hepatitis C and chemotherapy

Should I worry about catching Hepatitis C while I am having chemotherapy? I know someone who has it.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection carried in the blood. So with normal contact you are not likely to be at any risk of catching it. By far the commonest way to catch it is to come into contact with infected blood. So in every day life, this isn't very likely.

The main route of infection in the UK is through sharing needles when injecting drugs. Since 1991 all blood for transfusion in the UK has been screened for Hepatitis C, so you can no longer get it from a blood transfusion.  Possible routes of infection include

  • Having body piercing, a tattoo or acupuncture with equipment contaminated with the blood of some who is infected
  • Sharing a razor, toothbrush or tweezers with someone who is infected

If you are having any procedure where the skin is pierced, you should check that the equipment has been sterilised. The risk from sharing a toothbrush or razor is that there might be a tiny bit of infected blood left behind after the infected person has used it.

The virus can be present in small amounts in other body fluids. In theory, there is a risk of picking it up from saliva, semen or vaginal fluids. We know that you can catch the virus from sex with an infected person, but you aren't likely to get it from contact with saliva. The Department of Health advise using a condom if there is chance a sexual partner may be infected or at risk.

There is more about infection risk in the main chemotherapy section of CancerHelp UK.

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Updated: 25 April 2013