Statistics show that up to 25 percent of all mouth and throat cancers can be linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease in the United States, however, most types of HPV go away before causing any health problems. Usually, the body will fight off the HPV infection naturally and any infected cells will then return to normal. When the body does not fight off this virus, it can cause visible changes and sometimes lead to cancer. The most frequent subtype of tonsillar HPV detected is HPV-16, a high-risk subtype of HPV for oropharyngeal (mouth and pharynx) cancer. Infection with HPV-16 occurs in about 1% of men and women.
In recent years, an increase in tonsillar HPV infections has corresponded with an increase in cases of oropharyngeal cancer. However, the vast majority of people with tonsillar HPV infections are not infected with the subtype of HPV that is considered high risk and linked to the development of cancer. Of the millions of Americans infected with tonsillar HPV, less than 15,000 people develop HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers annually. Most cases of oropharyngeal cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol use and not related to HPV infections.
Some potential signs and symptoms of oral cancers can include:
• trouble swallowing
• sore throat
• a white or red patch on the tonsils
• jaw pain or swelling, and
• numbness of the tongue, among others
• coughing up blood
• a lump on the neck or in the cheek
• hoarseness that doesn’t go away
If you are displaying any of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer, but if any signs are present for longer than 2 weeks, you should see your doctor.
The first line of treatment for throat cancer is either chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or surgery followed by either radiation or chemotherapy, if necessary. The Department of Otolaryngology (ENT) at Cleveland Clinic Florida specializes in the comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the head and neck. Our medical and surgical treatments can range from screenings to the most complex surgeries for cancerous and non-cancerous tumors of the head and neck.
Michael Medina, MD is an otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology at Cleveland Clinic Florida. He is board-certified in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery. Dr. Medina specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancers. His specialty interests include head and neck extirpative and reconstructive surgery, endoscopic and robotic surgery for and neck tumors and cancer, photodynamic therapy for malignant and pre-malignant lesions, lymphoscintigraphy and sentinel node biopsy for the head and neck and hyberbaric oxygen therapy from delayed radiation injury and necrosis.
To have your questions about HPV and throat cancer treatment options answered by one of our Cleveland Clinic Florida expert otolaryngologists, please join us during this informative web chat.
To make an appointment with Michael Medina, MD, Otolaryngologist or any of the other specialists in the Department of Otolaryngology (ENT) at Cleveland Clinic Florida, please call 877.463.2010. You can also visit us online at www.clevelandclinicflorida.org.