What is a chronic STD

An STD is a sexually transmitted infection that you can acquire through risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex. Some STDs become chronic if left untreated. Others that are not curable might become chronic but managed and controlled with medication. STDs can be viral or the result of bacterial or parasitic causes. Some examples of persistent viral STDs are herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Studies suggest that having a chronic STD increases your risk of developing bladder, urethral, cervical, or ovarian cancer in the future. 

What are bladder and urethral cancers?

Urethral cancer is the malignant transformation of the cells lining the lumen of the urethra. These cells can grow fast and spread to other tissues and areas of the body, leading to metastasis. Urethral cancer is rare and affects more men than women making it a challenging diagnosis. Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that affects your bladder and is the fourth most common type of cancer in men. Certain risk factors raise a person's chance to develop urethral or bladder cancer, but having more than one does not mean you will have it. Similarly, not having any risk factors does not mean you will develop the disease in the future. Studies correlate gonorrheal and other viral infections with an increased risk for both types of cancer. Specifically, HPV16 might play a significant role in bladder cancer development. 

What are cervical and ovarian cancers?

Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that affects women and their ovaries, leading to malignant transformation of some cells that can grow fast and spread. Cervical cancer, strongly correlated with some strains of the human papillomavirus, is a type of cancer that affects the cervix of women. It is one of the most prevalent malignancies in women worldwide. Pathogens and viruses associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer are HPV (16 and 18), and chlamydia. The chance of getting ovarian cancer raises with chlamydia, gonorrhea, and M.genitalium infections. 

How do chronic STDs increase your chance of cancer?

Many studies suggest that some viral and bacterial STDs might raise your chance of getting various types of genitourinary cancer, by increasing the inflammatory processes and favoring cancerous cellular transformation. Scientists generally don't know how these changes occur, except for the case of HPV and cervical cancer, in which the virus inactivates some tumor-suppressing cells. Generally, chronic irritation or inflammation creates a premalignant state which favors carcinogenesis. STDs are often silent and challenging to diagnose, and people might have it for a long time without knowing. The only way to find out is to get tested. You can do that at home with an STD rapid kit test. 

Urogenital cancers symptoms

Bladder cancer

Bladder cancer may be initially asymptomatic or present with one of the following symptoms:1

  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Nocturia
  • An urge to urinate, but not being able to 
  • Lower back pain 

Urethral cancer

Urethral cancer may be initially asymptomatic or present with one of the following symptoms:

  • A lump in the urethra
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination 
  • An urge to urinate, but not being able to
  • Pain while urinating
  • Low flow or dribbling while urinating
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Urethral discharge

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer may be initially asymptomatic or present with one of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Pressure in the pelvis or lower back or pelvic pain 
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Pain during sex
  • Intermittent bleeding

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer may be initially asymptomatic or present with one of the following symptoms:

  • Intermittent bleeding
  • Vaginal discharge 
  • Frequent urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain upon urination

Treatment of urogenital cancers

Bladder cancer

Treating bladder cancer includes choosing between oral drugs and surgery. Oral treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy 

Surgery includes: 

  • Transurethral bladder tumor resection (TURBT)
  • Radical cystectomy and lymph node dissection
  • Urinary diversion

The first involves receiving a catheter through your urethra and removing the tumor. The second one consists of the removal of the entire bladder. The third one creates a new pathway to pass urine. 

Urethral cancer

You might choose one of the following standard treatments or a combination of them:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Active surveillance

After treating cancer by some of the above methods, follow-up tests might be necessary. Regular screening is crucial for all those who survived cancer because recurrence might occur. 

Ovarian cancer

Doctors usually combine chemotherapy with surgery to treat ovarian cancer. Sometimes, patients require surgery to remove one or both ovaries. Often, they might remove the uterus too. Advanced methods include chemotherapy, followed by surgery, to remove as much tissue as possible. Other therapeutic options are targeted therapy and supportive or palliative care.

Cervical cancer

You might choose one of the following standard treatments or a combination of them to treat cervical cancer:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative care

Surgical methods might focus on removing your tumor, your entire cervix, or both the uterus and cervix. Also, you might receive radiation therapy internally, externally or both. 

What to do to decrease the chance of developing urogenital cancers?

To decrease your chance of developing one or more urogenital cancers, you should avoid their risk factors and generally adopt a healthy lifestyle. Although some risk factors have to do with your family history and genetics, others are easy to control and avoid, such as smoking or having chronic STDs or urinary tract infections. 

However, having an STD does not mean you will develop urogenital cancer, especially if identified and treated early. Most STDs are asymptomatic, therefore, if you think you got exposed to one or more STIs, get tested and start treatment as soon as possible. Find out if you have an STD at home with an STD rapid kit test. They come in a discreet package worldwide and provide you with results in less than twenty minutes. Getting tested with an STD rapid kit test will give you a 99% accuracy in the privacy of your own home.

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