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HIV and lung cancer? How are they related?
Jul 29, 2001

When does HIV become AIDS? A relative of mine was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. The tumor was only the size of the tip of the little finger. Surgery was performed in which the middle lobe was removed. More was taken out because the surgeons believed some other material looked suspicious. This person smokes. What are the chances of similar cancerous tumors forming in the lungs due to his HIV, or AIDS?(don't know when HIV becomes AIDS). Also, does smoking magnify the problem.

Thanx. Phil

Response from Dr. Dezube

Phil, you ask a lot of good questions about the relationship of HIV and lung cancer.

Lung cancer does NOT qualify as an "AIDS-defining cancer". What this means is that if your relative is HIV positive and has lung cancer, then he does NOT necessarily have AIDS.

The HIV virus by itself does not lead to lung cancer. That said, HIV sets the body up such that if a person develops lung cancer, for example from smoking, then the cancer tends to be more aggressive. So lung cancer can be more aggressive in HIV positive folks, then in HIV negative folks. In other words, HIV does not cause the cancer, but may promote the cancer's growth.

My advice to your relative is to stop smoking. If he licks this cancer and continues to smoke, then he could very easily develop yet another lung cancer. Smoking does indeed magnify the problem as your query suggests.

Your relative needs to see an oncologist (cancer doctor) preferably one who deals with lung cancer. Hopefully surgery is all that he needs. In some cases, we use radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

I wish him luck. BD.


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