The HPV-linked cancer that affects more men than women | McLaren Healthcare News

Look for these signs of throat cancer and three tips to lower your risk

Author: Jasmine Brown

“Most cases of oropharyngeal cancer are caused by the HPV virus, rather than smoking and alcohol.”

Although we hear about the human papilloma virus (HPV) responsible for cervical cancer in women, this sexually transmitted infection can also cause cancer to grow in other parts of the body. The HPV virus is linked to the majority of vulvar and vaginal cancer cases in women, more than half of penile cancer diagnoses in men, and most anal and vaginal cancers. oropharynx in men and women. Oropharyngeal cancer, also known as throat cancer, is nearly twice as common in men as in women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“Most cases of oropharyngeal cancer are caused by the HPV virus, rather than smoking and alcohol,” explained Jonathan Waxman, MD, a board-certified otolaryngologist who specializes in head and neck cancers. neck at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in McLaren Flint. “When he is [oropharyngeal cancer] related to the HPV virus, it is very treatable. We are seeing very good results.

Oropharyngeal cancers start at the base of the tongue, tonsils, or the back of the mouth (soft palate). Tobacco and alcohol are traditional causes of oropharyngeal cancer, but the HPV virus is linked to about 60 to 70 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

HPV is a virus that our body is normally able to fight off within two years. Most people don’t know they have HPV. According to the CDC, almost everyone will be infected with HPV in their lifetime, and there are more than 42 million people in the United States who have HPV, especially the subtypes that can lead to disease. If the virus has been in your system for years and your body is not able to fight it off, the risk of cancer increases. In the United States, HPV has been linked to approximately 36,000 cases of cancer each year.

One of the common subtypes that cause oropharyngeal cancer is HPV type 16. This same subtype also causes most cases of cervical cancer.

Signs and symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer may not be noticeable until the cancer has spread.

“The actual cancer, which can start at the base of the tongue or the tonsils, is usually very small – like millimeters in size. Often these cancers spread to the neck. Having a neck mass is usually the first thing someone ‘one will notice,’ Dr. Waxman said.

“If someone presents with a persistent neck mass, I will order a CT scan and biopsy in hopes of ruling out cancer. If the biopsy comes back as P16+, that means the cancer is HPV related. .

Other signs and symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer are:

  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • ear pain
  • Voice Changes
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing

Chances are you’ve been infected with HPV before, and the hope is that your body has fought off the virus. However, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) lists some steps you can take to reduce your risk of oropharyngeal cancer and other head and neck cancers:

  • Stop smoking: Talk to your primary care provider about ways to quit smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. You can also visit for resources.
  • Avoid HPV infection: The HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, protects against subtypes that are linked to many HPV-related cancers, including oropharyngeal cancer. The vaccine is FDA-approved for people up to age 45, though it’s only recommended for children and adults ages 9 to 26. After age 26, most people may have already been exposed to HPV, so there may not be much benefit. Patients between the ages of 27 and 45 are recommended to speak with their doctor to see if they need to be vaccinated.
  • Receive routine dental exams: Talk to your dentist about checking not only your teeth, but also your gums, tongue, and throat. Although they cannot see your entire throat, they are able to look inside your oral cavity for possible signs that could lead to head and neck cancer.

For more information on head and neck cancers, visit

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