Risk Of Oropharyngeal Cancer Increased By HPV Infection

Though the overall incidence of head and neck cancers has fallen in the United States, the rate of oropharyngeal (chiefly, tonsil and base of tongue) cancers is stagnant and appears to be rising is certain populations and these trends are likely due to oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

A review published in the journal Cancer, finds an increasing trend in the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers, particularly among men under 45 years old, for which HPV infection is the likely cause.

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There are many risk factors of oropharyngeal cancer. The risk factors include poor diet, consumption of mate, chewing of betel quid, and infection with human papilloma virus (HPV).

Oropharyngeal cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of oropharynx. Oropharynx is the middle part of the throat behind the mouth. Most oropharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which are thin, flat cells that line inside of the oropharynx.

There are about 80 different types of human papilloma virus (HPV). This is also called as wart virus as certain types of HPV cause warts on genital parts and some other parts of the body. Among different types of HPV, HPV 16 is the most common type. Oral HPV can raise the risk of oropharyngeal cancer.

Once you are affected with oropharyngeal cancer, following signs can be observed.

Signs of oropharyngeal cancer:

  • Dull pain behind the breast bone
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Sore throat
  • Change in voice
  • A lump in the back of the throat, neck or mouth
  • cough

Oral sex seems to be the main cause of transmission of HPV virus causing oropharyngeal cancer. HPV virus is found in the mucus of the genital tract as well as in urine, semen, and saliva. HPV infection mainly affects genital area but now it has been associated with oral cancers.

The cancer can be detected by some tests and procedures.

CT scan: It gives complete details of the inside body. It is also called as computed tomography as the pictures are made by computer linked to x-ray machine.

Physical exam: Physical exam includes checking signs for disease such as swollen lymph nodes in the neck. A complete examination of neck and mouth with a small and long handled mirror to check any abnormalities is conducted.

MRI: This procedure uses magnet, radio waves and computer to get detailed picture of the body.

Endoscopy: It looks for abnormal areas inside the body. An endoscope should be inserted into the mouth or nose of the patient to look for areas that are not visible during physical check up.

Once the stage of cancer and tumor is recognized, treatment should be started immediately.