When Jo-Anne Jones first warned the dental community about the threat of a new kind of oral cancer, she had no idea it would end up affecting her own family.
The veteran dental hygienist turned educator has a no-nonsense approach and dynamic speaking style that has made her one of North America’s most sought-after lecturers on oral health issues. But in early fall 2011, while preparing her keynote address for a national conference, the subject matter became all too real.
“I was working on my presentation about the link between the human papilloma virus (HPV) and oral cancer,” says Jo-Anne, “when I received word that my cousin had been diagnosed with late stage, HPV-oropharyngeal cancer. She fought a brave battle but died a year later at the age of 46.”
Jo-Anne knew what many others didn’t – that HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-ORC) is very different from other oral cancers. Unlike non-HPV oral cancers, which are linked to smoking, alcohol consumption, and to a lesser extent sun exposure and diet, HPV-ORC is sexually transmitted by a virus and may lay dormant for many years. Some 75 per cent of Canadians will have an HPV infection during their lifetime.
References: From April 2014 Focus Magazine. Used with permission from Ontario Dental Hygienist's Association.