Patients First: Overview – Preparing for Treatment: Part 2, by Alan Franciscus, Editor-in-Chief

Part 2 of this article discusses Medical Tests, Medications and Side Effect Management, among other things.

Medical Tests:
There may be tests your medical provider will order before you start treatment:
HCV treatment consists of pills.  Talk to your medical provider about how and when to take them.  Be prepared—ask your medical provider ahead of time if you miss a dose, when you should take the next dose.  If you plan on traveling, make a copy of your prescriptions to take with you. 
You may have to use a specialty/mail order pharmacy, rather than a brick and mortar pharmacy like Walgreens or CVS.  They both have similar services:
Side Effect Management
A favorable treatment outcome is associated with your ability to stay on the prescribed dose of medication for the entire duration of treatment.  In addition, completion of treatment goes hand in hand with good side effect management—this means treating the side effects before they become worse.  For more information about side effect management see the Resource section at the end of this article. 

Treatment side effects are usually temporary and should gradually fade away after treatment is completed.  This may take weeks or months; rarely up to a year. 

The most common side effects of current therapy are fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia.  However, it is important to know that not everyone has these particular side effects, and most people do not have severe side effects.  In clinical trials for current therapies, less than 1% of individuals had side effects that required discontinuation of treatment.

Preparing Your Body
HCV treatment is a process that requires getting the mind and body ready and in shape.  Alcohol, especially in large quantities, can accelerate HCV disease progression.  Some insurance companies and medical providers are denying HCV treatment to people who consume alcohol and drugs, including medical marijuana.  You may be required to abstain from alcohol and drugs for 6 months and attend a 12-step program.  Talk to your medical provider about any concerns or questions. 

Light to moderate exercise is recommended for most people with hepatitis C.  Check in with your medical provider before starting any exercise program.  Before beginning treatment, slowly build up to a comfortable level.  There are many ways to get exercise such as walking, yoga, and dancing to name a few.

Birth Control
If ribavirin is part of HCV treatment:
Women of childbearing age, their partners and female partners of male patients taking ribavirin must practice two forms of reliable contraception during to 6 months post-treatment.

It is essential that pregnancy be avoided throughout treatment and for six months after treatment has ended.  The guidelines are to use two reliable forms of birth control.  Reliable means using medically accepted contraceptive methods and using them correctly.  Whatever you choose, know how to use the method correctly.  Also, notice the word two.  This means that if you use two forms of birth control and one fails, then you have back-up protection.  If you or your partner needs information about birth control, talk to your medical provider or family planning center. 

Pill Containers/ Calendars
It is important to remember to take the pills every day.  The makers of HCV drugs make it very easy, but no one is perfect.  Plan ahead—get a calendar.  Mark off the day when you take the pill(s).  This can be a great motivation to know that you have completed one day of treatment, and you can look forward to the end of treatment and hopefully a cure. 

A Final Word
It is important to set a goal before treatment.  Why do you want to be treated?  Write them down and refer to them while on treatment.  It is an excellent way to stay motivated.  Just remember that, even though, the cure rates are very high not everyone can be cured at this time.   Planning ahead and staying the course will give you the best opportunity to be cured, and that is really all you can do.

Resources: Patient Assistance Programs

For Part 1 of this article click here

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