Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a small DNA virus that infects skin and wet surfaces of the body. The virus is typically spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. There are over 100 different types of HPV. The most common types of HPV are found on the skin and appear as warts. It is one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections worldwide. HPV is responsible for more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers. The high-risk types of HPV form in the back of the throat, also known as Oropharyngeal Cancer.
Ways to diagnose HPV is:
- Physical exam of the inside of your mouth using a small camera to look at the back of the throat and vocal cords.
- The physician might notice signs of throat cancer or oral HPV during a routine exam
- Your dentist may be able to detect it
Usually, the cancer is diagnosed after a person has symptoms. Your doctor might recommend an oral cancer screening if you’re at high risk of developing HPV.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Patients with known HPV-positive throat cancer do not benefit from vaccination. The vaccination is not treatment, it is for prevention.
People that abuse alcohol or tobacco are more likely to develop head and neck cancer. HPV-related cancer can develop whether you do or do not drink alcohol or use tobacco. Patients with cancer who do not use tobacco or alcohol are less likely to develop new cancers. It is recommended for patients with head and neck cancer to quit using tobacco and minimize alcohol.
- HPV causes most oropharyngeal cancers in the U.S
- It is recommended that oropharyngeal tumors be tested for HPV
- Smoking and alcohol use can also cause oropharyngeal cancer
HPV infects the squamous cells that line the inner surfaces of these organs. Most HPV-related cancers are a type of cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Some cervical cancers come from an HPV infection of gland cells in the cervix and are called Adenocarcinomas.