HPV and Early Detection of Oral Cancer

The Irish Dental Association has shown concern with the increasing number of oral cancer cases in Ireland. Dr Conor McAlister, president of IDA announced that four hundred new cases were reported every year. Each week, two cancer patients die from the disease, but awareness is really low.

Dr. McAlister notes that early detection is very important for this disfiguring and debilitating condition. In his words, cases of oral cancer have grown up by 30 percent during the last decade. Oral cancer has been shown to kill more people than malignant melanomas and cervical cancer.

The situation is similar in the United States. Doctors diagnose more and more cancer cases a year and seek to raise awareness of the risk factors and symptoms. HPV infection, alcohol use, and smoking are the main factors causing oral cancer. Other factors are sun exposure and radiation, which increase the risk of neck, head, and oral cancers.

The US Oral Cancer Foundation has reported that 37,000 patients are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, and close to 8,000 die from it. Men are at a two times higher risk than women when it comes to developing oral cancer. Moreover, half of the sexually active population in the USA is exposed to the human papillomavirus.

Common symptoms of oral cancer include a constant ear ache, difficulty swallowing, and hoarse voice. According to medical practitioners, this type of cancer is treatable, but early detection is vital. The screening procedure is painless and quick.  Screening involves an evaluation of the mouth, skin, throat, tongue, scalp, face, thyroid gland, and neck.

Everyone should be tested for oral cancer. HPV-related cancers are not easy to detect because they usually develop on the tonsils and at the back of the tongue. This is an additional reason to get screened for infection with the human papillomavirus on a regular basis.

The symptoms and signs of oral cancer may go unnoticed. Signs that indicate the development of oral cancer are lump in the neck, hoarseness or change in voice lasting more than 2 weeks, white or red patches in the mouth for more than 2 weeks, and constantly sore throat. Other signs are difficulty swallowing and speaking, ear ache, difficulty breathing, and swelling or pain in the neck or mouth which doesn’t subside. The presence of one or more of these signs may indicate that the patient suffers from an HPV-related oral cancer, which requires immediate attention.


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