National Post: Oral Health Supplement

The Sex-Talk with Jo-Anne Jones: How the link between HPV and Oral Cancer is a Growing Concern

In the midst of preparing to present my research on HPV-related oral cancer, our family was dealt a crushing blow.

One of our cousins announced that she was diagnosed with late stage HPV-related tonsillar cancer. She was a fitness trainer having dedicated her life to healthy living. After a heroic and relentless battle with the disease, she lost her life 16 months later at the age of 46. This month would have marked her 50th birthday. She leaves behind a husband and three beautiful daughters. A wonderful life that gave so much to others gone far too soon.

The changing face of oral cancer

There are two distinct pathways related to the cause of oral cancer: smoking and sexually related HPV. It is the second pathway that has caught both the medical and dental profession off guard. Over 75 percent of sexually active Canadians will have an HPV infection in their lifetime. For those who are health compromised, or have had persistent exposure and infection to a high risk strain of HPV, abnormal cell development may occur and advance to a malignancy. The highest risk for transmission of HPV is through oral sex; however, it may be passed on through kissing if the virus is active in the mouth.

The Subtle Life-Saving Oral Cancer Symptoms

• A change in the voice or hoarseness.
• A continual or recurring sore throat that does not respond to antibiotics.
• Pain when swallowing or difficulty swallowing.
• A feeling that something is either stuck in the throat or a lump in the throat.
• Continual enlarged glands in the neck, ear pain on one side, slurred speech, or difficulty articulating some sounds.
• Tonsillar enlargement and continual inflammation usually visible on one side.
• A tongue that tracks to one side when stuck out.


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