Friday, May 19, 2017

Why Throat Cancer is Difficult to Catch

April is oral cancer awareness month. While screenings are a standard part of dental care for adults, the recent rise in throat cancers associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV) makes it more important than ever for patients to be able to recognize warning signs and to share information with their doctors because oral HPV cannot be detected directly.

The oropharynx is the medical term for the back of the mouth and the tonsils. While cancers associated with alcohol and tobacco usually occur in the front of the mouth and can be detected with standard examination tools, HPV tends to settle in the oropharyngeal region. 80% of American adults will have an oral HPV infection at least once in their lives, and of the nearly two hundred known strains of HPV, only one is believed to cause oral cancer. Therefore, even if there were a test for oral HPV, it would likely only cause needless panic. However, throat tissue is so creviced that it is unlikely scraping at it would actually capture any infected cells before cancerous growths had become obvious.

Symptoms of oral and oropharyngeal cancer include pain, numbness, and swelling in the throat, jaws, and ears. Patients should be aware that any of these sensations is cause to get a check-up with a doctor. Though men between the age of 35 and 55 are the highest risk group for HPV-associated oral/throat cancer, it’s a concern for everyone. The good news is that HPV-associated throat cancer is much more responsive to treatment than tobacco-associated cancer.

Drs. Navid and Faranak Rahimpour operate Southern Cross Dental at 1855 S Nevada Ave, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80905-2516. To schedule an appointment, call 719-471-1717 or visit and fill out a contact sheet.

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