A Comprehensive Guide to Oral HPV & Oral Cancer Screening
I am confident this is the most comprehensive guide you will find on the internet regarding Oral HPV and Oral Cancer Screening.
In this guide, I will share with you my knowledge around oral HPV and treatments available.
My name is Dr. Rana Shahi, DDS, MS, MSD, and owner of LA Periodontics & Implant Specialists --- which is one of the leading periodontal centers in Los Angeles and Brentwood, California.
So if you're searching to learn as much as you can about oral HPV and oral cancer screening, I hope that you will find value in this guide.
DR. RANA G. SHAHI
Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology
DDS, MS, MSD
Are You at Risk for HPV and Oral Cancer?
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. An estimated 79 million Americans are living with HPV today. Fourteen million new cases were diagnosed in 2018.
At least 100 different types of the virus exist, 40 of which can affect the throat or genitals. Most types of HPV go undetected, never present symptoms and go away on their own. However, HPV can be a serious health concern.
For example, oral HPV, which is predominantly spread through oral sex, is the leading cause of oral, or oropharyngeal, cancers. Oral HPV causes 70 percent of these types of cancers that affect the tonsils, the back of the tongue and other areas of the mouth. High-risk types of HPV, such as HPV 16 or 18, increase the risk of oral HPV leading to oral cancer.
However, oral HPV is not as common as other types of HPV. Only seven percent of Americans age 14-69 have oral HPV. Still, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors to prevent oral HPV and the cancers it can cause.
Risk Factors for Oral HPV
Oral HPV, and oral cancers, are more common in men. About 11 million men have oral HPV in the U.S. compared to 3.2 million women. This could be due to increasing rates of oral sex.
Oral HPV is most commonly spread through oral sex, so participating in oral sex will heighten your chances of contracting oral HPV. In addition, having 20 or more sexual partners in your lifetime can increase your chances of contracting oral HPV by 20 percent.
Smoke inhalation can cause cuts in the mouth, making it easier for HPV to infiltrate the oral cavity.
Studies have shown that drinking alcohol may increase the risk of oral HPV in men.
More research is needed for this one, but some studies say open-mouth kissing can help spread oral HPV.
What Are The Symptoms of Oral HPV and Oral Cancer?
Oral HPV typically doesn’t have symptoms and often the virus will take care of itself within two years. Even though you may not experience symptoms with oral HPV, you can still spread it to sexual partners. Because of this, if you participate in oral sex or think you could have oral HPV, it’s important to get tested. You can ask your dentist about an oral HPV infection test, but the reliability of these tests is questionable. For the most accurate testing, visit your doctor or dentist for a visual and tactile exam where they can ask further questions to determine whether or not you have oral HPV.
As we said above, oral HPV can lead to oral cancer, which does have signs and symptoms you should pay attention to.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer Caused by HPV
a persistent sore throat
chronic ear aches
coughing up blood
unexplained weight loss
an ulcer or sore in the throat that isn't healing
enlarged lymph nodes
growths or lumps on the neck
a hoarse voice
numbness in your mouth
red or white patches on your tonsils
jaw pain or swelling
If you are or have experienced any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor to rule out the possibility of oral cancer caused by oral HPV.
What Causes Oral HPV and Oral Cancer?
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, so all types of HPV are spread through skin-to-skin sexual contact, but oral HPV is more specifically spread through oral sex. If your partner has HPV, you can contract his or her virus through a cut or small tear in your mouth. Casual physical contact, such as kissing on the cheek or sharing food and drink does not cause oral HPV, or other types of HPV.
How does oral HPV cause oral cancer?
Doctors have known about the link between HPV and cervical cancer for a few decades, but with a recent rise in oral cancers in the throat and neck, doctors have only recently begun investigating what they now know is a strong link between oral HPV and oral cancer.
HPV is an infection that causes your cells to change. If your body can’t fight that infection, you can develop tumors from the changed cells, which is what causes cancer. If you have oral HPV, the tumors will form in the throat, on the roof of the mouth or tongue. It’s important to note that HPV can lie dormant in the body for several years before developing into cancer.