HPV16 and Oral Cancer
HPV stands for human papilloma virus and it is a group of over 150 types of distinct viruses. These viruses can cause a growth called a papilloma or commonly known as a wart. Papillomas aren’t cancer but some of them can cause cancer in the penis, anus, vagina, vulvas, and even the throat. They can also cause warts in other parts of the body if you’re not careful.
What is HPV16?
HPV16 is one of the 150 types of human papilloma virus and it’s commonly linked to oral and throat cancer. A person infected by this virus is likely pass it on to someone else. This virus is very common. According to research conducted by CDC, 6.2 million new infections happen every year in United States alone. This infection is usually spreads during early sexual contact.
How Does One Contract This Disease?
People become infected through sexual and genital contact. If you have had vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner, you’re more likely to contract it. You’re also more likely to contract it if you have intercourse with partners who have had multiple partners in the past. Many people aren’t even aware they have HPV16 because the symptoms don’t manifest in them. Sometimes the virus can remain inactive for weeks, months, or even years before they manifest.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cancer Caused by HPV16?
- An ulcer that lasts for longer than 2 to 3 weeks
- Any kind of red, white, or black discoloration or marks on the insides of the mouth
- Experiencing pain during swallowing
- Prickly sensation in throat when swallowing
- Tonsil that’s visibly swollen but doesn’t cause any pain
- Experiencing pain while chewing food
- A noticeable swelling or lump in and around your mouth
- Sore throat and hoarse voice that doesn’t go away, even after consuming medication
- A lump on the outside of the neck that’s painless and can be easily felt
- Numb mouth and lips
- Constant coughing and throat irritation
- Persistent earache on one side that just doesn’t go away
If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately and get a complete examination. While this virus doesn’t have any known cure, it usually doesn’t cause significant health problems and will go away after a year or two. However, if it lingers in the body for longer than 2 years, it increases the chance of causing cancer.
How Does HPV16 Cause Cancer?
Cancer from HPV16 rarely develops in the front of the mouth. It usually surface in the posterior sections of the mouth, which is known as the oropharynx. The infection is likely to manifest at the base of the tongue, in the tonsils, at the back of the throat, in the tonsillar pillars, and tonsillar crypts. People with a compromised immune system are more likely to develop the cancer from an infection than healthy, non-smoking patients. It usually affects people from the ages of 25 to 50.
How Can it be Prevented?
The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. The Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines protect people against different strains of the HPV virus and that includes HPV16 and HPV18. This virus causes mouth and throat cancer so it’s a good idea to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
While using protection during intercourse can hinder the infection, you only need skin on skin contact for the virus to transfer. This is why it is important to look out for the symptoms and get yourself tested regularly.