PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Fifteen thousand Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year. Men are four times as likely as women to develop this kind of cancer and the vast majority of the cases are caused by a sexually transmitted disease. Learn more about the cancer, the cause, and the best prevention against it.
Steve Wilson is a medical pathologist. He spends his days identifying dangerous diseases.
“I have a heightened sense of awareness of cancer, and maybe to some extent, fear of cancer,” Wilson told Ivanhoe.
Wilson was on vacation in the Caribbean in December 2015 when he felt a lump on his neck. The lump was cancer.
He shared, “It was what I was expecting and what I was afraid of.”
Umamaheswar Duvvuri, MD, an otolaryngologist at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a head, neck and throat specialist. Dr. Duvvuri said at one time, oral cancer was linked primarily to smoking, but head and neck cancers are now more often caused by the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus, HPV.
“The reality is there is no treatment for the viral infection itself, which is why we need to vaccinate people to prevent them from getting the virus to begin with,” Dr. Duvvuri explained.
The CDC recommends boys and girls receive two doses of an HPV vaccine before they become sexually active. A new study found 93 percent of all HPV caused cancers were preventable with the vaccine. Still only 40 percent of all teen girls and 22 percent of the boys have been vaccinated.
Dr. Duvvuri told Ivanhoe, “I think nationwide we should have this mandated. I believe this vaccine is efficacious, and safe.”
Wilson wishes the HPV vaccine had been an option years ago. He said “All of us who are 40 and above, we’re all at risk for this, and we don’t know if we’re going to have it, or not have it.”
Radiation and chemotherapy knocked back Wilson’s cancer, now he’s back helping detect disease in others.
According to the immunization action coalition, only Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia mandate middle school-aged children have the HPV vaccine. Since 2008, Canada has introduced HPV immunization programs for all adolescent girls between grades 4 and 7.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.
HPV – CANCERS ON THE RISE
BACKGROUND: The oropharynx is the middle part of the throat which is where the name oropharyngeal cancer comes from and refers to neck cancer. The majority of oropharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which are cancers arising from the surface cells of the throat. Symptoms of neck, throat, and tongue cancer include a sore throat that persists, pain or difficulty with swallowing, unexplained weight loss, voice changes, ear pain, and a lump in the back of the throat, mouth, or neck. Risk factors include using tobacco and alcohol, but most cases are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). According to the CDC, men are four times as likely to develop this kind of cancer.
HPV CANCERS AND TREATMENT: HPV causes most cervical cancers, as well as some cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum, and cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. Based on data from 2008 to 2012, about 38,793 HPV-associated cancers occur in the United States each year: about 23,000 among women, and about 15,793 among men. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among women, and oropharyngeal cancers are the most common among men. Recent studies show that about 70% of cancers of the oropharynx may be linked to HPV. Many cancers of the head and neck can be cured, especially if they are found early. Although eliminating the cancer is the primary goal of treatment, preserving the function of the nearby nerves, organs, and tissues is also very important. If cancer surgery requires major tissue removal, such as removing the jaw, skin, pharynx, or tongue, reconstructive or plastic surgery may be done to replace the missing tissue. A study found that 93% of all HPV-associated cancers were preventable with the HPV vaccine.
HPV VACCINE: HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. Most HPV infections go away by themselves within two years, but some cause cancer and that is when people wish they were vaccinated. All children 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now. HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21. It is also recommended for young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual, young adults who are transgender, and young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV).
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