Anal cancer screening

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Annual anal cancer screening is recommended for men living with HIV who have sex with men.  Positive Life supports the recommendations from ASHM for anal cancer screening in men living with HIV who have sex with men using digital ano-rectal examination (DARE).

Less than 10% of men living with HIV who have sex with men have an annual anal exam.  A DARE is a painless, simple way for your doctor to check for abnormal lumps or growths inside the anal canal. Your doctor will use his or her fingers to feel inside the anal canal.

Why is this recommended?

  • The rates of anal cancer in men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV are 50-100 times higher than the general population.
  • The earlier anal cancer is diagnosed and treated the better.
  • The priority for treatment of anal cancer is aimed to preserve the anal canal and evidence shows excellent outcomes when anal cancers is picked up and treated at earlier stages.
  • Incorporating a routine DARE as part of your normal sexual health check-up for MSM living with HIV has strong benefits to your long term health.

What does this mean for me?

  1. If you have anal bleeding, rash or anal discharge, a hard lump or an ulcer, or feel like you need to move your bowels, even if you have recently moved them and pain, talk to your GP about a checkup.
  2. Your GP will likely examine your anal area (‘perianal exam’) for any abnormalities.
  3. This can involve a DARE. This is a painless, brief examination.

If any abnormalities are detected, your doctor will refer you to a specialist.

If you have any concerns please talk to your HIV doctor or contact Positive Life NSW by calling (02) 9206-2177, 1800 245 677 (freecall) or email contact@positivelife.org.au.

Resources

HPV and Anal Cancer – Positive Life Factsheet

Digital Ano-Rectal Examination (DARE) – Positive Life Factsheet

Is anal cancer on your radar? – November 2017

Anal Cancer in men living with HIV – Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)

How the anal cancer epidemic in gay and bi HIV-positive men can be prevented – The Conversation Sept 2017

HIV Australia, edition 11, number 2 – Health Edition – page 33, Mary Poynten and Andrew Grulich explore the connection between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and anal cancer among gay men, highlighting findings from the SPANC study

HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation (USA based) – personal accounts, information and resources about anal cancer

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