Reports suggest that HIV positive or AIDS patients are at a higher risk of getting exposed to Cancer. However, the reason behind it is still not clear, with few suggesting it might be due to their weak immune system.
India, due to its burgeoning population and the westernisation of the social system, is already in the grip of an AIDS epidemic. Clinicians are slowly, but steadily, facing the rising numbers of unusual cancers in patients with AIDS.
A lethal combination
Patients having AIDS manifest unusual and hitherto rarely seen cancers including Kaposi’s sarcoma, non- Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and cancers of the lung, mouth, cervix and digestive system. The problem has become so significant globally, that most of the textbooks and websites on cancer treatment have an entire section dedicated to cancers in AIDS patients. The problem has assumed endemic proportions in regions with high concentrations of AIDS patients such as Africa (certain parts). Even the highly civilised western societies have their own notable contribution to cancer in AIDS victims.
The most pertinent abnormality that the AIDS virus causes to a human body is significant loss of the body’s defence mechanisms, leaving the human body prone to a plethora of opportunistic infections. This loss of immunity also renders the body unable to prevent cancers, which would otherwise have not occurred in a healthy human body. The body’s weakened defences are also responsible for these cancers being more aggressive and virulent, as the body becomes incapable to fight these cancers. This results in the occurrence of highly lethal and aggressive cancers, which are less amenable to the current modalities of treatment. The outcome is an increase in the mortality figures and loss of manpower and productivity .
Awareness and action
Early detection and treatment is important. This can only happen if a man is aware of the impact of an unusual symptom or a new tumour developing in an AIDS patient. This can be done through mass education. The media could be roped in to mention the occurrence of these cancers in the ongoing anti-AIDS campaigns. The physician community have their own share of responsibilities by keeping themselves up-to-date in about the diagnosis, management and ultimate outcomes of these cancers. Unless stringent measures are taken to check the AIDS epidemic, coming years would see prevalence of such AIDS related cancers. With the AIDS virus creeping into every nook and corner of today’s social structure, the man on the street should be prepared for the kind of lethal diseases approaching them.