HIV And Cancer – What Patients Need To Know

Each year, the HIV virus infects more than one million people around the world, with an estimated 1.7 million individuals infected in the year 2018. Africa accounts for quite a large percentage of adults and children that are infected with this virus. In the Eastern and Southern regions of Africa, an estimated 57% of adults have been infected with HIV.

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A large number of those individuals who have been infected with this particular virus have not yet been tested – and do not realize the risks that they are facing with their general well-being. One particular risk that needs to be addressed is the fact that there is an increased risk of cancer among individuals who suffer an HIV infection.

The Increased Risk Of Cancer Caused By HIV

A common question asked by those infected with the HIV virus is whether or not they are truly at a higher risk of cancer. The short answer is yes – there is actually a significant increase observed in the risk of cancer among HIV sufferers. It is, however, important to note that the risk is only increased for a specific number of cancerous diseases.

When a patient develops cancer after they have been infected with HIV, the condition will usually be referred to as HIV-associated cancer.

The most important types of HIV-associated cancers that patients do need to be wary of include:

  • Cervical cancer (only applies to female patients who are infected)
  • Kaposi sarcoma (a type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is considered aggressive and dangerous)
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome defining cancers, also called AIDs-defining cancers

The increased risk of these cancers among individuals with HIV is defined as follow:

  • An HIV positive individual is 500 times more likely to develop Kaposi sarcoma than those who are not infected.
  • There is a 12x increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma among individuals with HIV.
  • Women diagnosed with HIV are also three times as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to those female patients who are not infected with the virus.

In addition to considering these HIV-associated cancers, there also seems to be an increased risk of other cancers among these patients:

  • Liver cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Oral cavity cancer
  • Pharynx cancer
  • Lung cancer

In addition to considering these factors, it is important to note that when the HIV virus is accompanied by certain conditions or complications, there is a further increase in the patient’s risk of developing certain cancers.

One example is Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. This disease is also called human herpesvirus 8. The presence of Epstein-Barr virus, along with HIV, also puts a person at a higher risk of both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Patients with HIV and infection with either hepatitis B or C are also at an increased risk of developing cancer in their liver.

Using testing kits, such as those provided by Ghana Medicals, can help a person detect the presence of HIV at an early stage – which might assist in reducing the risk of cancer when appropriate treatment is initiated.

Weak immune system

People who are infected with the virus that causes HIV to have a weak immune system and have also been found to be at a significantly higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. Those individuals who are affected by certain complications associated with HIV are at an even higher risk of developing these cancers.

References

https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hiv-fact-sheet#r2

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