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Author: Thomas McNeil, Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner at The Arlene Cooper Community Health Center

People of all genders who have received anal sex should be screened for HPV of the colon, rectum, and anus!

HPV stands for Human Papilloma virus which is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, anal cancers, and other types of cancer. Most HPV infections are transient, meaning that they disappear on their own. However, persistent, and recurring HPV infections can destabilize the cellular bed of the anus and rectum leading to the progression of cancer.

Anal, rectal, and colon cancers are invasive cells that can invade below the surface level and spread to other parts of the body. If a cancer related to HPV develops, it will not disappear by itself. Cancer treatment can require radiation, chemotherapy, and the potential for surgical intervention. In the instances of surgical intervention, it may leave patients with chronic surgical scars and the potential for a permanent colostomy bag.

Increase in HPV-Caused Colorectal Cancer in All Genders

Everyone is familiar with visiting their primary care provider for routine blood work for diabetes & cholesterol. How many people are familiar with screening for anal HPV at least once in their lifetime? Historically, cisgender women were the only group of patients routinely screened for HPV through a "pap smear" due to the increased risk of cervical cancers.

However, emerging research is showing an increase in HPV-caused colorectal cancer in all genders. The current recommendation for all people who have anal sex is to receive an anal pap smear at least once in their lifetime!

Patients living with HIV have an increased risk of developing anal / colorectal cancer from HPV. Individuals living with HIV should receive an anal pap smear every year with their annual appointment. It has been demonstrated in a clinical study that patients who have early detection, and treatment, have lead to a 57% decrease in the progression of anal cancers!

What to expect from an anal pap smear:

  • Schedule an appointment with a provider offering an anal pap smear.
  • Avoid douching, anal play, and anal sex 2-3 days prior to your scheduled appointment as it may significantly change the results.
  • Your medical provider will use a small scope to look inside the anus to look for abnormalities. They will then use a swab or brush for the HPV test. This may cause some minor discomfort.
  • There is no recovery time needed after the anal pap, you can go back to your usual activities.
  • If there is an abnormal test result, your provider may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation & management.

Early detection and treatment improve overall patient outcomes and reduces the risk of life-altering and threatening treatments and surgeries.

About the Author:

Thomas McNeil is a key member of our healthcare team at the Arlene Cooper Community Health Center, bringing a rich background in intensive care and emergency medicine to his role since 2023. Originating from St. Louis, Missouri, and having moved to Las Vegas in 2021 with his husband, Thomas is passionate about providing exceptional, patient-centered care, with a special commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Outside the clinic, Thomas's interests are as diverse as his skills. A former rugby player from St. Louis, he brings the same teamwork and resilience to healthcare. His love for heavy metal music and a lifelong fascination with the epic tales of J.R.R. Tolkien reflect his dynamic personality and deep appreciation for storytelling and adventure.

Dedicated to personal and community well-being, Thomas channels his energy into physical fitness and motivational coaching, aiming to inspire those around him. His work at our clinic not only fulfills a professional calling but also a personal mission to advocate and care for every patient.