People used to believe that cancer was contagious, and people with cancer were reluctant to actually use the word if they were diagnosed with the disease. It became the ultimate ‘C’ word, an affliction akin to leprosy. Sometimes doctors did not tell patients they had cancer. It was tacitly understood but avoided. Fears of scary cancers and its fatal outcome reduced victims to waiting for immobility.
Today, all that has changed………or has it?
In fact, five cancers are known to be $exually transmitted through viruses, therefore somewhat contagious. What do we need to know about contagious cancers?
Having multiple $exual partners increases the risk of contracting the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. Most anal cancers are thought to be linked to HPV. HPV can be spread through hand or genital contact.
Symptoms include narrowing of stool, pain in the anal area, rectal bleeding and a feeling of fullness in the rectal area. Diagnosis is staged 0-IV and treated accordingly. Most of the time, surgery is prescribed for stage 0, with radiation and chemotherapy as well as surgery for more advanced stages of anal cancer. The five-year survival rate stands at about 65 percent for later stages, and 80 percent for earlier.
HPV virus is again implicated. In fact, it is the leading cause of throat cancer. Other forms of oral cancer, such as those in the mouth, are similarly transmitted through oral $exual contact. Symptoms include pain upon swallowing, ulcers or sores that don’t heal and persistent hoarseness or a sore throat. Weight loss may be a symptom, as well. Males are more susceptible to oral cancer. This cancer has about a 75 percent survival rate.
Like other cancers, oral cancer is staged 1-IV. It is treated by surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Nutrition is an important part of the treatment. Survival rates after a year are 81 percent.
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Most cervical cancers are a squamous cell or skin cancers. Cervical cancer is easily treated in the first stages and is the most preventable of cancers. It is often detected by a simple Pap test. Human Papillomavirus causes cervical abnormalities leading to cancer in 99 percent of cervical cancer types. HPV virus is so common, that by the age of 50, almost 80 percent of women have been infected by some type of HPV. Immune systems usually clear the virus from the body, but sometimes this does not happen. These women are more at risk for cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer usually has no symptoms in early stages. Bleeding, especially after menopause, is a sign to take seriously.
Treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer and ranges from the cancerous tissue being removed from the cervix to complete hysterectomy if other organs have become cancerous. Radiation and chemotherapy are used for later stage cervical cancer, as well.
Penile cancer is uncommon but growing. Forty-seven percent of those with this cancer will be infected with HPV. Symptoms are soreness, redness, bleeding or a lump. Surgery is one course of treatment, followed by radiation if necessary. The survival rate for five years in the early stages of the cancer are 85 percent, and 59 percent for later stages III or IV.
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Vulvar or vaginal cancer
This cancer involves the vagina or outer female reproductive organs. More than half of these cancers involve HPV-induced cellular changes. Standard screening for this type of cancer is not available, but abnormal bleeding or growths are symptoms to be investigated. Cancers of the vulva and vagina are very treatable in the early stages. Radiation and chemotherapy are the preferred treatments. Survival rate after five years is 86 percent if
Survival rate after five years is 86 percent if the cancer has not spread. If it has spread to distant organs, the survival rate stands at 16 percent.
What can I do to prevent $exually transmitted cancers?
HPV vaccines are available to prevent most anal, cervical and oral cancers. HPV types are variable, so the existing vaccines do not completely benefit some populations. New vaccines may soon cover more strains of HPV virus.