April is Oral Head and Neck Awareness Month
Every year, we embrace this month to build awareness about HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. The truth: most people remain largely unaware of this growing cancer. They are even more surprised to learn that HPV can cause six types of cancer.
HPV throat cancer facts? We’re going to break it down right now!
HPV Throat Cancer: Symptoms and Prevention
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects millions of people worldwide. Although HPV is primarily associated with cervical cancer in women, it can also cause throat cancer in both men and women. In fact, the incidence of HPV-related throat cancer in the US now surpasses incidents of cervical cancer, particularly in middle aged men.
Here’s what you need to know about HPV throat cancer, its symptoms, and how to prevent it.
What is HPV throat cancer?
HPV throat cancer refers to cancer that develops in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. The most common type of throat cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for around 90% of all cases. HPV is responsible for about 70% of all cases of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, making it a major cause of throat cancer.
What are the symptoms of HPV throat cancer?
The symptoms of HPV throat cancer can vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. Some common symptoms include:
- A persistent sore throat or earache
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Hoarseness or changes in the voice
- A lump or swelling in the neck
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bad breath
- Blood in saliva or phlegm
It’s important to note that many of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well. However, if you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks, it’s important to see a doctor for evaluation.
How can HPV throat cancer be prevented?
The most effective way to prevent HPV throat cancer? Get vaccinated against the virus. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for both boys and girls at the age of 11 or 12, and as early as age nine. In some cases, the HPV vaccine may also benefit people up to age 45. Studies show the HPV vaccine efficacy lasts a long time.
In addition to vaccination, there are several other ways to reduce your risk of HPV throat cancer:
- Practice safe sex: HPV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, so using condoms or dental dams can help reduce your risk of infection.
- Limit your number of sexual partners: The more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of HPV infection.
- Quit smoking: Smoking increases your risk of throat cancer, particularly if you also have HPV infection.
- Practice good oral hygiene: Regular brushing and flossing can help reduce your risk of oral HPV infection.
If diagnosed with HPV throat cancer, your treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches. Breakthroughs in immunotherapy continue to show promise. The prognosis for HPV throat cancer is generally better than for other types of throat cancer, particularly if the cancer is detected early.
In conclusion, learn about the steps that you can take to reduce your risk of HPV infection and prevent the development of throat cancer. If you experience any symptoms of HPV throat cancer, it’s important to see a doctor for evaluation and early detection.