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Oral cancer/HIVcorrelation? Is HIV a catalyst?
Apr 6, 2003

Having lived with HIV for 13 years now I thought I could handle anything. I was diagnosed with oral cancer (SCC R Tonsil-stg 1)14Feb 03-to be surgically removed 28mar 03, but the tumor had grown too large, and now I face radiation/chemo. ENT doc seems to feel that HIV acted as "catalyst" to spur rapid growth. Is this a common cancer in HIV+ folks? (yes I was a smoker) Also what should I beware as far as side effects of rad/chemotherapy (to begin soon) w/HIV cocktail? (Norvir,epivir,zerit,amprenavir) Very little information readily available. Would like to know where to look and would love to interact w/others undergoing similar cancer experience. Many thanks

Response from Dr. Dezube

I'm so sorry to hear about your latest chain of events. HIV does indeed act like a "catalyst" as you put it; in medical jargon, we say that HIV alters the natural history of the disease. HIV doesn't cause the Head and Neck Cancer. Rather, once the cancer gets established, HIV spurs the cancer. This happens because HIV suppresses the immune system.

It's important that you stay on your HIV medications since they will hopefully keep the virus in check, so that the chemotherapy and radiation can work. You might be more sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, but if your CD4 count is relatively robust (i.e. over 200), I would not necessarily recommend that your oncologist cut down on your chemotherapy dose.

You may have a bit of a rough road ahead of you. Don't hesitate to ask for help and support from family members, friends, and from your health care providers. It's also important that you maintain your nutritional status.


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