Partners of people diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer are at risk of developing HPV-related cancer. While some partners of HPV throat cancer patients continue to test negative for HPV, recent research on spousal infection by Marshall Posner, MD, Medical Director of the Head and Neck Medical Oncology Program at Mount Sinai indicates:
They found that 54 percent of people with HPV16-positive throat cancer had evidence of HPV16, the strain associated with this type of cancer, at diagnosis, and six percent had it after a year, despite treatment. In their long-term partners, prevalence of any HPV was five percent in female partners of men with HPV16-positive throat cancer and 29 percent in male partners of women with HPV-positive throat cancer—findings that are comparable to the general population.
“Recent research suggests that husbands of women with cervical cancer are at greater risk for a future HPV16 positive throat cancer, and patients with throat cancer have expressed reasonable concerns about infecting their spouses with the virus,” said Dr. Posner. “Ours is the first trial to evaluate the prevalence of HPV in long-term partners of people with throat cancer, and the findings should reassure those in long-term relationships that their risk is very low.”
Dr. Sara Pai recommends that partners of HPV throat cancer patients receive a comprehensive head and neck exam and to be aware of the early symptoms of HPV throat cancer.
THE HPV SOCIAL STIGMA
Like any sexually transmitted disease, HPV carries a social stigma. Thirty years ago, breast cancer and AIDS were taboo diseases where those afflicted would often hide their illness and never utter the words, “breast cancer” or “AIDS.” HPV was once associated with gay sex even though studies show the majority of HPV infection is heterosexual.
It’s time for all of us to get over the social stigma of HPV. With 75% of the population being exposed to the virus and 20 million new cases every year, HPV is nothing to be ashamed about. Through continual dialogue and awareness, more and more people will become aware of HPV, how to prevent it, and how to look for early signs of HPV throat cancer.
VIDEO | PARTNERS & THE HPV SOCIAL STIGMA
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