INTRODUCTION : Breast cancer is the most common cancer of women in the world. Twenty-five percent of people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reside in South Africa. The coincidence of breast cancer and HIV infection is therefore common in South Africa. There is a perception that systemic and local surgical complications are more common in HIV-infected patients, and that these patients tolerate chemo- and radiotherapy poorly. AIM : The aim of the study was to determine the effect of HIV infection on the management of breast cancer by comparing HIV-infected to -noninfected patients. The outcomes of surgery and adjuvant/neoadjuvant therapy were examined in these groups.
METHOD : The study was performed at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa, during 2009-2014. Patients scheduled for surgery for breast cancer were recruited prospectively and their HIV status was determined. All patients were managed according to standard guidelines for breast cancer. Patients were followed up for 30 days and local and systemic surgical complications documented. Completion or non-completion of courses of chemo- and radiotherapy, and reasons for non-completion were documented. HIV-infected and -noninfected patients respectively were grouped, and compared statistically. RESULTS : One hundred and sixty patients (31 HIV-infected) were included. The frequency of surgical complications did not differ significantly between HIV-noninfected and infected patients (p = 0.08), more occurring in the HIV-noninfected patients. The risk ratio of HIV infection for surgical complications was 0.20 and the odds ratio 0.23. The completion of courses of chemo- and radiotherapy did not differ between the HIV-infected and -noninfected patients. Twenty-five of 27 HIV-infected patients (93%) and 100 of 113 HIV-noninfected patients (94%) completed their courses of chemotherapy (p = 0.68). Twelve of 14 HIV-infected patients (86%) and 40 of 41 HIV-noninfected patients (98%) completed their courses of radiotherapy (p = 0.16). CONCLUSION : These results suggest that HIV-infected patients with breast cancer do not experience more treatment-related complications and can be treated according to standard guidelines.