Purpose: Persistent infection with oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of anal cancer, a disease that disproportionately affects men who have sex with men (MSM); however, there is no uniform screening protocol to detect anal cancer. This qualitative study explores whether a self-anal exam (SAE) or partner anal exam (PAE), that includes self-palpation or palpation of a partner’s anal canal, is an acceptable and self-efficacious screening test, which will cue appropriate follow-up care in MSM. Methods: Twenty-four MSM living in Houston took part in four focus group sessions eliciting their responses to a study teaching them to perform an SAE or PAE (SAE/PAE). Participants were asked about the acceptability and feasibility of executing an SAE/PAE routinely. Thematic analysis of session transcripts was used to identify common patterns in participant responses. Results: Overall, participants expressed self-efficacy for performing an SAE/PAE and voiced a preference for being taught the procedure by a clinician. Participants agreed that they would consult with a clinician if they ever discovered an abnormality while performing an SAE/PAE. A lack of knowledge about anal cancer among MSM may present a barrier to adopting SAE/PAE. In discussing their experience of the exams, some participants suggested that it could become a routine practice for them. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that SAE and PAE, as a screen for anal cancer, are acceptable and feasible to MSM. Future research should explore attitudes and beliefs of MSM, with the aim of improving anal cancer education and understanding of pathologic findings.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG.
- Anal dysplasia
- Cancer screening
- Gay men
- Qualitative research