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Hepatitis Health Center

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Natalie Cole's Hepatitis C: FAQ

Questions and Answers About Natalie Cole's Hepatitis C and 'Chemotherapy'
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 10, 2008 -- Singer Natalie Cole, who has hepatitis C, says she's getting chemotherapy and will cut off all her hair next week because it's starting to fall out due to the chemo.

"What I have is treated with chemotherapy. I have chemo every week," Cole said in an interview shown yesterday on Entertainment Tonight. She told her interviewer, Paula Abdul of American Idol, that the chemotherapy makes her tired and nauseous, and that she's lost a lot of weight due to her illness, but that she has a "great group of people" rallying around her.

What is hepatitis C? How do you get it, how is it treated, and can you prevent it? And is chemotherapy a common treatment for hepatitis C? Here are answers to those and other question about hepatitis C.

What is hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by an infection with a virus. It is a serious disease because the liver is needed to remove toxins that build up in the blood. Hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis and destroy the liver. It is a main cause of liver transplants worldwide.

How do you get hepatitis C?

There are several ways to get infected with hepatitis C:

  • Sharing needles for injection drug use. Drug use may be how Cole got hepatitis C. She told Entertainment Tonight that she used heroin in the early 1980s. Cole wrote about her drug use in her 2000 autobiography, Angel on My Shoulder; saying her drug use is long over.
  • Accidentally getting pricked by a needle contaminated by infected blood. This sometimes happens to hospital workers.
  • Being born to a mother with hepatitis C infection.
  • Getting a blood transfusion from someone with hepatitis C infection. Before 1992, blood could not be tested for hepatitis C. Since 1992, all blood donated in the U.S. gets tested for the virus. If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before June 1992, ask your doctor about being tested for hepatitis C.
  • Some people on kidney dialysis have gotten hepatitis C from contamination of the equipment.
  • It's possible to get hepatitis C from someone you live with if you share items such as razors or toothbrushes that might have had his or her blood on them.
  • A person can get hepatitis C from getting a tattoo or body piercing with dirty tools.
  • Rarely, a person can get hepatitis C from having unprotected sex with an infected person. This is more likely to happen if the infected person also has another sexually transmitted disease.

You cannot get hepatitis C from hugging or shaking hands with an infected person.

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