Read part 1 of Jenelle’s overview of the HCV testing process.
Your doctor will then explain how your test results will be provided to you. Some choose to give this information via a secure website, others report the results over the phone, and some require a second visit where the results are given in person. It is important to note how you will find out your results and to follow up with the doctor if you are unclear or if you do not receive your results within the timeframe you were told.
If the test is negative, your doctor may wish for you to repeat this test in the future or they may have enough reason to be certain you were not exposed to the virus and will send you on your way. This decision is made based on the full picture of your medical history and your behaviors, based on the paperwork you filled out before your visit and the conversations you have had with them. If the test is positive, this simply means that you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus. You will be asked to come back for a second test, which will determine whether you have simply been exposed to the virus but do not have it or if you have the hepatitis C virus.
At this appointment, you will have already completed the paperwork and other basic information. It is important to let the treating professional know about any chances in your life since your last appointment. For example, any increase or decrease in IV drug use, any changes to the frequency you are exposed to blood or blood products, or whether you have recently been tattooed and where. Your blood will be tested again with a different type of test. They may also check your liver enzymes, as this can be a sign of hepatitis C. These tests are intended to discover whether you have become infected with hepatitis C. Some people are exposed but never become infected, which some doctors think is related to both the extent of the exposure and the body’s ability to fight infection at the time of exposure.
If you test negative, you may be asked to schedule an appointment to take the test again, if the doctor has reason to believe this may have been a false negative. If you test positive, you do not need to panic. You next appointment will help to determine the extent of the virus in your body.
If you have been asked to come for this test, it means you have tested positive for hepatitis C antibodies and your second blood test shows you have been infected with the hepatitis C virus. This final blood test will be sent to the lab to determine what strain or genotype of the virus you have. This information is necessary as there are different treatment methods used for different genotypes.
On this visit, you may find out that your body fought off the hepatitis C virus and, though you were exposed and infected, you no longer have an active strain of the virus itself. This happens in approx. 25% of people who are infected. If you are one of the other 75%, however, your doctor will discuss your genotype or strain with you, as well as discussing treatment options and beginning treatment.
Some facilities require 4 separate office visits and blood draws, as outlined above. Others complete multiple steps in one office visit. If your insurance, your schedule, or your feelings about blood draws require you to have fewer visits, it is important to inquire about this when you call facilities to make an appointment.1-3
CDC DVH - Know More Hepatitis - Hepatitis C Overview. (2016). Cdc.gov. Retrieved 8 September 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/knowmorehepatitis/learnmore.htm
Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public | Division of Viral Hepatitis | CDC. (2016). Cdc.gov. Retrieved 8 September 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm
Hepatitis C Testing. (2016). HEP. Retrieved 8 September 2016, from https://www.hepmag.com/basics/hepatitis-c-basics/hepatitis-c-testing