Understanding HPV and oral cancer

Information about HPV and oral cancer:

Oropharyngeal cancer used to be associated with older men who drank alcohol, smoked, or chewed tobacco. Male to female incidence was 6 to 1 30 years ago. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is ubiquitous, affecting about 40 million Americans.

About 120 strains of HPV exist, with 40 affecting the mouth and genital tract. In one study, HPV-16 found in 72 out of 100 oropharyngeal cancer cases

HPV 16 also causes cervical cancer and HPV + Oropharyngeal cancer had increased survival rate compared to HPV (-) cancer. HPV (+) Oropharyngeal cancer tends to be diagnosed at a younger age than HPV (-) Oropharyngeal cancer (30's and 40's) and HPV (+) Oropharyngeal cancer more common in men than women

Men and women who reported having 6 or greater oral-sex partners during their lifetime had a 9-fold increased risk of developing cancer of the tonsils or at the base of the tongue.

In adults under the age of 50, the risk of developing Oropharyngeal cancer from HPV is greater than the risk from smoking and drinking

35,000 new cases of Oropharyngeal cancer are diagnosed each year. One person per hour dies from Oropharyngeal cancer. This is due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development.

HPV also causes anal, penile and cervical cancers

Teens: Teenagers rarely use barrier protection during oral sex and perceive oral sex as being low-risk and 50 percent of American teens ages 15-19 have engaged in oral sex. Males and females report similar levels of experience.


Oropharyngeal cancer often diagnosed at the dentist's office

Signs and symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer:

  • Lump or mass felt inside the mouth or neck
  • Pain or difficulty in swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Wart like masses
  • Prolonged hoarseness -numbness in the oral/facial region -unilateral persistent earache
About Dr. Leah Millheiser:

Dr. Millheiser oversees the Female Sexual Medicine Program, which is available to women of all ages in the discreet surroundings of our Stanford Hospital office.

This clinic provides treatment for the following disorders: decreased libido; decreased arousal; anorgasmia; dyspareunia and vaginismus.

We take a multidisciplinary approach to female sexual medicine, working in conjunction with a licensed sex therapist, pelvic floor physical therapist, as well as alternative health practitioners.

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