Oral Cancer in Epidemic Stages
Rise in Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Related Oropharyngeal Cancers (Oral Cancer).
With an increase in the HPV-OPC’s (Oropharyngeal Cancer), proper and timely diagnosis and treatment are mandatory and education of the patients is even more necessary. The above is a form of oral cancer. Health care professionals of all kinds, dentists, oral surgeons, dental hygienists, nurses, all types of physicians, especially ENT physicians, and other health care providers must provide a more thorough initial screening method.
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is becoming more prevalent in today’s society as throat cancer is rapidly increasing to close to 80% of all oral cancers, and this cancer is usually caused by the HPV. In the past, tobacco was the probable cause of oral cancer. Genetics, as well as excessive use of alcohol, were also culprits. This is no longer true as HPV has become the leading cause of oral cancer. Some statistics say that approximately 8% have the virus now. Where is the HPV usually found? The answer is in the throat, cervix, or anus.
Unprotected oral sex is the primary cause of the increase in the spread of HPV, and since HPV is also the primary cause of throat cancer, we must begin to educate the general public of this. Many patients are completely unaware that this virus can be transmitted by unprotected oral sex.
Education is the answer. Parents should educate their children. Physicians, dentists, nurses, dental hygienists, and all health-care professionals should be involved. Cancer of the throat in middle-aged men will soon surpass cervical cancer in women. Teens and young adults must be educated that oral sex is not safe sex. The spread of the HPV is becoming rampant. Consideration should be given to both boys and girls being vaccinated to prevent both cervical cancer for the girls and cancer of the penis for the boys. The name of the vaccine is Gardasil. Although there are a few hundred strains of HPV, the one we need to guard against primarily is called HPV-16.
This is a very sensitive topic to discuss with your patient, but one that needs a conversation. Special lights such as the DentalEZ brand are readily available to help in the diagnosis of oral cancer. Careful observations should be made in the back of the throat, behind the tonsils, and at the back of the tongue. Saliva can be tested for the presence of HPV.
The health care practitioner must not only educate the patient but also encourage them. Education and information are truly lacking and need to be improved. Early diagnosis may allow treatment by simply enhancing the immune system. If the enhanced immune system cannot eliminate the HPV, then the patient maintains the infection which makes them more prone to cancer.
Unfortunately, the HPV virus is more common than one thinks. It is carried unknowingly on some for their entire life with no symptoms. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that approximately half of men and women who are sexually active will contract this infection genitally at some point.
So….what should you do?
- Practice safe sex, especially oral sex.
- Do not be promiscuous. Limit partners.
- Lessen the intake of alcohol.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, raw or not over-cooked.
- Do not smoke.
- Avoid second-hand smoke.
- Avoid smokeless tobacco, as well as the Asian betel nut.
- Brush twice per day and floss once.
- Self check your mouth.
- Visit your dentist twice per year.
- Avoid sunburns.
Life Member of American Dental Society, Emeritus Fellow of Academy of General Dentistry, American Association of Implant Dentists.