Don Rodgers, National Director of Communications, Canadian Liver Foundation.
What few laypeople realize is that the liver plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health. It performs numerous vital functions including the processing of dietary nutrients and vitamins, maintaining blood sugar levels, activating or detoxifying medications and manufacturing proteins. People may also be surprised to learn that liver disease is the fourth leading cause of death by disease in Canada. More than two million Canadians, regardless of age, sex, ethnic origin or lifestyle, will be affected by a liver or biliary tract disease in their lifetime. With improvements in diagnostic testing and a growing awareness of risk factors, more Canadians are finding out they have liver disease. Many liver diseases can be prevented, quite a few can be treated and early diagnosis is very important. The outlook is hopeful and research is continuing to improve the lives of people living with these disorders.
When a person is diagnosed with a liver disease, it can be a very stressful time for all concerned--patients, families and friends. Unanswered questions create anxiety, and doctors and other health care providers often are too busy to discuss every detail. Pamphlets and websites can provide a wealth of information but cannot possibly answer all of a patient's questions. Hence the role of the Canadian Liver Foundation's Living with Liver Disease Program, which provides a wide range of information about all aspects of liver disease, as well as a forum in which people can ask questions about their individual concerns.
The program provides emotional and social support through the participants' interaction with others in the same situation. Facilitated group sessions feature qualified speakers who cover issues such as nutrition, exercise, diagnosis, treatment, liver transplantation and social assistance. During each session, patients can hear valuable information from a physician or another knowledgeable health care provider caring for liver disease patients. In the course of the session, patients will have the opportunity to ask questions and chat with other people who are experiencing the same or similar challenges. The Canadian Liver Foundation offers Living with Liver Disease Programs in communities across the country. Depending upon local needs, sessions may cover one topic per month or may be compacted into an all-day seminar format.
The Canadian Liver Foundation's National 1-800 Help Line offers a confidential bilingual service to all people affected by liver disease. When people are first diagnosed with liver disease, they have many questions about their prognosis, how it will impact their lifestyle and what treatments or other interventions might be available to them. The Foundation's National 1-800 Help Line gives patients and their family members somewhere to turn for answers. For more information about a program in your area, please call the National Help Line at 1-800-563-5483 or visit our website at www.liver.ca.