HIV Patients Less Likely To Have Cancer Treatments, Study Says

By Jenn Loro - 21 May '16 09:20AM

Powerful medications to treat HIV are giving infected patients extra years to their lives. Unfortunately, a recent study reveals that HIV positive patients diagnosed with cancer in the United States seem unlikely to get proper treatment for cancer they need regardless of their insurance coverage and existing medical status.

In a study published online by the medical journal Cancer, researchers from the University of Utah, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have arrived at a conclusion that HIV patients in the United States are experiencing healthcare disparities for failing to receive the care they need whether the cancer has affected their breast, blood, cervix, gastrointestinal system, lungs, and prostrate.

In the study, for example, about a third of lung cancer patients with HIV did not get any treatment as opposed to 14% of patients deemed HIV-negative. Also, 44% of HIV-positive patients failed to receive upper GI cancer treatment compared to 18% of patients who are HIV-negative. About 24% of HIV-positive prostate cancer patients also did not get any treatment as opposed to 7% who are HIV-negative, NPR reported.

As per Newsweek, HIV patients are at a greater risk for developing certain cancers medically termed as AIDS-defining cancers which include diseases like Kaposi sarcoma (a soft tissue cancer that causes lesions in the lymph nodes and mucous membranes), cervical cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The report indicates that diagnosis of these conditions in patient infected with HIV is largely viewed as a medical sign that the viral infection has evolved into AIDS.

Furthermore, HIV is also linked to a slew of other viruses that trigger the development of certain cancers. For example, HIV patients may also be positive for the human papillomavirus (HPV) which, in turn, could cause a number of cancers that attack the reproductive systems of both male and female cancer patients. HPV is also associated with head and neck cancers. Other known viruses linked to HIV are Epstein-Barr and hepatitis B or C which also cause certain types of cancer.

"To have made such great strides with treating HIV only to have them succumb to cancer is devastating," said lead author Dr. Gita Suneja, a radiation oncologist at the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City as quoted by PBS.

The study involved a large-scale analysis of a medical database of US cancer patients under 65 from 2003 to 2011. About 2.2 million people diagnosed with cancer are not HIV-infected while 10, 000 cancer patients were found to have been inflicted with HIV. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are infected with the said virus.

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