Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital issued the following announcement on Aug. 15.
Human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Fourteen million people in the country contract an HPV infection every single year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80% of the country will get an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime. All of that is to say that if it happens to you, you’re not at all alone (in fact, if you don’t get it, you’re more of the exception).
But while HPV generally isn’t life-threatening, it can develop into something more dangerous given the right circumstances. HPV has been linked to the spread of certain cancers, particularly throat and laryngeal cancers. Here’s everything you need to know about the relationship between HPV and throat cancer, and what you can do to protect yourself.
HPV and Throat Cancer: What You Need to Know
Oropharynx cancers have increased by up to five times over the past decade, and that’s linked to a similar increase in HPV infections.
There are more than 100 different strains of HPV, about 40 of which can be spread through sexual contact. Many of these strains are low-risk, and are only likely to cause warts. However, about 3% of adult men and 1% of adult women have a strain known as HPV16 that is detectable in their saliva. HPV16 is usually the culprit behind oropharyngeal cancer.
Of course, not everyone who has contracted HPV16 will develop throat or laryngeal cancer. Most patients will test clear of the virus within one or two years, but it can sometimes persist in others. In general, cancer does not develop until years have passed after the infection. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that HPV alone is enough to cause oropharyngeal cancer. Rather, cancer tends to develop when HPV interacts with other factors, such as alcohol abuse or chewing tobacco.
Preventing Cancer Caused by HPV
The best way to prevent the spread of HPV is with a vaccine. Generally, the HPV vaccine is given between ages 11 and 12, but it can be given between the ages of 9 and 26. If you haven’t contracted HPV before, you can receive the vaccine Gardasil 9 as late as age 45https://www.livescience.com/63790-hpv-vaccine-adults.html. If you haven’t received it yet, and you’re eligible, make your appointment as soon as possible — besides throat and laryngeal cancers, HPV has been linked to cervical, anal, vulvar, penile and vaginal cancers as well.
Since the vaccine has been in use, the types of HPV that lead to these cancers and genital warts have dropped by 71% among teenage girls. Among vaccinated women, the percentage of cervical precancers caused by HPV dropped by 40%. So while the vaccine might have some short-term side effects, particularly for adolescents, the permanent benefits far outweigh the temporary drawbacks.
Other Preventative Measures
While the vaccine is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of HPV, there are ways to increase your protection even more. Used correctly and consistently, dental dams and similar measures during sex can dramatically lower the chance of passing HPV from one partner to another. Avoiding excessive alcohol and tobacco use, which can contribute to the development of oropharyngeal cancers, is also recommended.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Throat Cancer
Since HPV is so common, many people might not be aware that they are at risk of oropharyngeal cancer. Early symptoms of throat cancer can include:
A long-lasting sore throat
Swollen lymph nodes
Unexplained weight loss
If you’re experiencing any of these signs of throat or laryngeal cancer, consider scheduling a screening with the AMITA Health Cancer Institute.
To book a HPV vaccination for you or a loved one, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or gynecologist. You can also search for an AMITA Health doctor in your area.
Original source can be found here.
Source: Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital