Analogy - Anal Cancer Screening Study

Publish Date: 14/03/2013


“Anal cancer is rare and affects about 1-1.5 people per 100,000; about 800 new cases in England and Wales each year” says Dr.Schofield. “Currently in the UK there is no cancer screening service for anal pre-cancers and cancers. Before cancer develops there are pre cancerous cell changes that can be detected on an anal smear.

Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing anal cancer.  Individuals who are HIV positive, people who recieve anal sex and people whose immune system has been affected by having an organ transplant are all at higher risk of acquiring anal HPV (human papilloma virus), which increases their risk of anal cancer.

The pre cancerous cell changes that occur are almost always caused by HPV infection. This is the same virus that can cause cervical cancer in women. There is now a vaccination program in place for young women against HPV. Genital HPV is generally sexually transmitted through contact with somebody who has HPV infection in his or her cervix, vagina, anus or penis. Over time the cells infected with HPV can transform into cancer cells.”

Dr.Schofield is currently recruiting 1000 men and women over the age of 25 from Manchester Centre for Sexual Health and the Renal Transplant Service at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

“All patients in the study will be tested for HPV infections”, Dr Schofield adds. “They will be recruited and seen by myself and specialist nurse, Carol Shaw in an Anoscopy Clinic which has been set up for this study. Participation is voluntary and people can withdraw from study at any point. Appointments take roughly 45 minutes and each participant will have two appointments, initially and at six months.

When attending the clinic participants will fill out a brief questionnaire. During the clinic after signed consent, an anal smear will be performed by gently manipulating a swab into the back passage to collect a sample of cells from the anus. This takes up to a minute. The sample is then sent off to be tested for precancerous cells and HPV.

Anoscopy will then be carried out using a microscope. To do this, a small anal speculum needs to be inserted into the back passage to be able to see the inside of the anus. If any changes are seen, with consent, a local anaesthetic would be injected to take a biopsy. The whole procedure takes a few minutes.

If the smear or biopsy shows any cell changes that could lead to cancer, or if a participant is found to have anal cancer, they will be referred to a specialist at Manchester Royal Infirmary or anywhere local to the participant. Everybody will be asked to have a swab and anoscopy again six months later.”

If you would like to know more about this unique study please contact: 0161 701 9119.