Recently I received a phone call from a patient who was concerned about the increased risk of throat cancer related to a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. When asked, she stated that yes, both she and her partner had engaged in oral sex, therefore, the concerned interest in a potential connection between HPV and throat cancer.
Oropharyngeal cancer in the throat, soft palate, tonsils or base of the tongue can occur as a result of the HPV virus. HPV can cause warts in the genitals, mouth and anus, and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, particularly in adults younger than 55. This might be related to changes in oral sex practices.
Symptoms can vary depending on the virus, but all live in mucous membranes, like those in the genital area or the skin. They can be found anywhere, but most often on the anus, cervix, scrotum, groin, thigh or penis. So engaging in oral sex can greatly increase your risk of obtaining this virus, and/or transferring it your partner.
To limit your risk of developing oral or throat cancer related to the HPV virus:
- limit the number or sexual partners that you have
- consistently practice safe sex by using a condom every time
- avoid unprotected oral sex with someone whose sexual history is not known
If you suddenly begin to develop persistent sore throat or ear pain, burning sensation when drinking orange juice or other acidic drinks, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, a visible or easy-to-feel lump in the neck, these can be common warning signs. See your doctor or primary care physician, as well as your dentist in order to rule out any correlation to an HPV infection and the potential for throat cancer.
If you are at risk for throat cancer, consider attend our free throat cancer screening:
When: Saturday, April 16, 2016, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: A. Alfred Taubman Center
Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery Department
1500 East Medical Center Drive
First Floor; Reception A
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Use Parking Deck P2
Registration is Required: 1-800-865-1125
Take the next step:
- Learn about HPV and throat cancer from the Centers for Disease Control.
- Find out more from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center concerning risk factors for all types of head and neck cancers.
- Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.
The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.