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HIV & Cancer how strong a correlation?
Mar 2, 2001

Hi there Dr. Dezube! I was wondering about something. I am an HIV positive woman -- I think I have it around 3 years. I'm not on any treatment yet. And I was wondering if HIV positive women are more likely to get cancer then other negative women. And if so, which cancer? IE should I go for pap tests more regularly? How can I stay on top of this? Thanks! B.

Response from Dr. Dezube

You ask an excellent question. HIV-positive women are indeed more likely to get cancer than HIV-negative women. I will focus this answer on cervical cancer. Fortunately there are guidelines in terms of PAP smears. The current recommendations are as follows: 1) In the first year after HIV diagnosis, women should get a PAP smear every 6 months for the first 1 year, and then once a year thereafter.

2) PAP smears, however, should be done more frequently (every 6 months, instead of once per year) if the woman has a previously abnormal PAP smear, documented HPV (human papilloma virus) infection, any prior cervical dysplasia, or CD4 count <200 cells/microliter.

3) Culposcopy should be performed if there is anything other than a normal PAP smear. Culposcopy is a procedure by which your health provider performs a microscopic examination of the cervix. It gives them a much better idea of what's going on.

Hope this answer helps. Do not fear; if you are followed closely and wisely, it is unlikely that cervical cancer will be a problem for you. Good luck.

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