Researchers from Ohio State University examined throat tumor samples collected over twenty years up to 2004 and found a 56% increase in the number linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV). “Throat cancers caused by a virus transmitted during oral sex have increased significantly in the United States in recent years,” researchers reported. (Source: NYTimes.com)
They said the increase in HPV-related cases is related to more sexual partners and greater exposure to HPV. HPV can cause infected cells to become pre-cancerous, and some of those cells can become cancerous. Usually there are no symptoms of HPV noticed by people infected by it. About 20 million Americans are believed to be infected currently, and about half of sexually active adults eventually get the virus, but usually it doesn’t cause health problems. It can cause cervical cancer and anal cancer though.
Throat cancers associated with HPV are increasing and by 2020 there could be 8,700 cases. (Most of those will be in men.) The number of HPV-related throat cancer cases in men is expected to exceed the number of cervical cancer cases related to HPV after 2020.
Throat cancer related to HPV is not as deadly as throat cancer that is not related to the virus. In HPV-related cases median survival is over ten years. It cases unrelated to HPV, it is a little over one and half years.
The side effects of throat cancer treatment can be disfigurement, speech problems, dramatic weight loss, nausea, vomiting and significant pain. If the voicebox is disabled or must be surgically removed, it is likely to be depressing. Depending on the individual, cancer can be emotionally traumatizing.
The Oral Cancer Foundation says about 36,000 Americans will be diagnosed with throat cancer this year. Only a little more than half will likely be alive in five years.
More cases could be treated effectively if they were diagnosed earlier, but oral cancer often doesn’t exhibit many symptoms. Tobacco and alcohol use are believed to be a primary cause of oral cancer, but HPV might replace them as the main cause, according to the foundation. They also say it occurs twice as often in the black population as the white.
According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms of throat cancer can be:
• A cough
• Changes in your voice, such as hoarseness
• Difficulty swallowing
• Ear pain
• A lump or sore that doesn’t heal
• A sore throat
• Weight loss
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