Trichomoniasis and Cancer

The Main Facts on Trichomoniasis:

  • Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection most often called ‘trich.’
  • In women, this parasite affects the vulva, urethra and vagina. In men, the penis and urethra.
  • Treatment is required to eradicate the parasite infection.
  • Trich leads to other genital issues and infections, and increases your risk for STIs, HIV, and cervical and prostate cancers.
  • Roughly 30% of patients will see symptoms with trich; the other 70% will have no visible symptoms.
  • During pregnancy, trich can increase your risk of preterm labor.

Trichomoniasis, or trich, is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. In the United States, it is estimated that over three million people have this infection, and over seventy-five percent of those are unaware they are living with this parasite. Trich is more common in women than in men, but possible for both genders to have.

Patients contract trichomoniasis from intercourse or sexual encounters with an infected person. For women, the most commonly infected area is the lower genital area which includes the vulva, vagina, cervix, and urethra. For men, the inside of the penis and urethra are the most commonly infected areas. This parasite can also spread from same-sex intercourse as well. If left untreated, this parasite can cause issues on or in the hands, anus, and mouth. Specialists are unsure as to why some people do have symptoms and some do not, but think that age, overall health, degree of infection and the level or stage of other illnesses present may be the suspicious cause.

What are the symptoms of Trichomoniasis?

Of those patients infected with this parasite, seventy percent will not show any immediate signs or symptoms. When the symptoms from Trich do begin to show, they can switch between mild and severe very rapidly. Some cases present signs and symptoms within five days of being exposed, while others can go for four weeks or more, to never. While symptoms can vary, and even come and go, these are the things you should look for:

Trichomoniasis in women:

  • a change in vaginal discharge such as consistency and volume; colors can range or change from clear, yellowish, white, or greenish with or without a fishy smell;
  • discomfort with urination similar to that of a bladder infection;
  • redness, burning, itching, and general soreness of the genitals.

Trichomoniasis in men:

  • discharge from the tip of the penis;
  • irritation, itching or burning inside of the penis;
  • burning after urination or ejaculation.

For both men and women, trich can make intercourse or sexual foreplay unpleasant and painful. These symptoms can come and go until treatment is sought for this infectious parasite.

What can I do to avoid getting Trichomoniasis?

The only true way to prevent this infection from spreading to your body is to abstain from having intercourse of the oral, anal, or vaginal variety. However, this is not always a reasonable answer or way to solve this problem. If you are sexually active, you can take these steps to lower your risk:

  • Using protection during intercourse and sexual foreplay. This means a condom or dental dam; although using this does NOT fully prevent the possible spread of trich. Due to the lack of full coverage of the genital area, condoms and dental dams leave much of the area open, and still able to touch their partner. The skin-on-skin contact is all it takes to contract this parasite.
  • Long-term, monogamous relationships with a partner who has been tested for all sexually transmitted infections with negative results is best for you both.
  • Discussing and communicating about your sexual history with a new partner, and learning their history as well, can benefit you both in the future- even if your relationship is temporary. Knowing your risk of possible exposure to any sexually transmitted disease can help you know how to empower yourself to reduce your risk factors when you can.

What is the diagnosis process and standard treatment for Trichomoniasis?

Laboratory tests are required to confirm a positive trichomoniasis diagnosis. Trich is treated with medications, usually in pill form, that are taken orally. Pregnant women can also take this medication, making treatment possible even during pregnancy. Trich is a repeating STI in that, each time you are exposed, you can get the parasite again. One in five people are re-infected only three months after their treatment ends. It is best to wait for seven to fourteen days after treatment to be sexually active again.

Are there complications that come with Trichomoniasis?

Yes, trichomoniasis can increase your overall risk for developing other sexually transmitted infections, vaginal and penial infections, cervical and prostate cancer, genital inflammation, and preterm birth in those women affected during pregnancy. Having trich also puts you at a greater risk for contracting the HIV infection.

Complications arise most often in cases where treatment is not received, and symptoms are ignored. Due to the embarrassing nature of sexually transmitted infections, many people choose to ignore the signs they are facing in hopes that the disease will disappear on its own. This is not true, and a dangerous game to play. Trichomoniasis causes cell damage and inflammation, which can cause abnormal cell growth and eventual growth of precancerous cells. Studies done by the CDC have shown that the T. vaginalis parasite releases a protein that promotes the growth rate of benign and malignant cancer cells.

If you think you have been exposed to trichomoniasis, contact your doctor to begin the diagnostic testing and treatment if warranted. Treating sexually transmitted infections early can help you to avoid the long-term damage that can be done without treatment and follow-through. Due to the high rate of spreading the infection during sexual acts, it is in your best interest to practice safe sex and have yourself regularly tested for all sexually transmitted infections.

Resources Used:


Medical News Today

Women’s Health


Reclaiming Intimacy

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