Squamous Cell Carcinoma and HPV

Question

Dear Dr. Dezube, My best friend and I have both survived HIV-related lymphoma. He recently was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma after a fistula was removed from his rectum. The pathology report said this might be HPV-related. He has not seen his oncologist yet. Is this type of cancer common in long term survivors of HIV and what treatment options exist?

Answer

I'm happy to hear that you both survived lymphoma. Anal cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) is not that unusual in HIV-infected patients. Any HIV-infected patient is at risk of getting this type of cancer if (s)he is infected by the human papillomavirus (HPV). In terms of treatment, if the cancer is sitting on top of a wart, then often all that is necessary is to excise the wart and cancer. HOWEVER, most patients with this cancer are not that lucky to get off so easy. Most patients with this cancer get a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy (5-FU and mitomycin). This is the standard of care. The good news is that this cancer is quite curable in the majority of patients.

Good Luck. BD.