Anal cancer is rare, but preventable. This makes screening particularly effective, so Ohio State has established the Anal Cancer Prevention Program, a one-stop screening program that also includes health counseling, Pap tests and more complex procedures, such as the detection and eradication of precancerous cells.
Almost all cases of anal cancer result from an infection with the human papillomavirus, or HPV. However, anal cancer symptoms can mimic those of hemorrhoids, including anal pain, bleeding or feeling a lump in the anal area, so diagnosis is often delayed.
Although open to anyone, the program’s outreach focuses on high-risk patients, specifically women with a history of cervical HPV infection, abnormal Pap test or precancerous cells in the cervix or vagina, and HIV-positive gay men.
“We want to make sure everyone receives equitable, dignified care,” says colon and rectal surgeon Syed Husain, MBBS. “We emphasize our state-of-the-art treatment and regular screening, but also our respectful approach, so no one feels marginalized.
“The fact is, we can save lives if we educate people about their risk and keep them engaged with regular screening. We promote community engagement and will do whatever we can to eliminate any barriers to good medical care. That means if someone is struggling to make it to an appointment, we’ll help with transportation arrangements if that makes a difference. We can also connect our patients to other specialists at Ohio State if we find another concern that needs to be addressed. It’s about treating the whole patient.”