Awareness, surveillance key to early detection, better prognosis in fight against anal cancer

David Aboulafia, MD, Virginia Mason Medical Center

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Anal cancer is a subject most people would rather not discuss, because of its anatomical location, along with an unfortunate stigma attached to the malignancy.

Although tragic, actress Farrah Fawcett’s openness about her diagnosis in 2006 helped create much-needed public awareness about the malady during her 11-year battle with the disease which she lost in 2015 at the age of 62.

Closer to home, a 51-year-old White Center resident named Ed was impressed with Fawcett’s openness and advocacy. He now feels very fortunate that he listened to his physician and decided to have an anal Pap smear following many years of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) treatment and participation in a surveillance program. Despite having put off the screening for a few months, Ed knew that since he had HIV — and, as a result, a compromised immune system — he was at higher risk for HPV (human papillomavirus), lesions and anal cancer. Read on