Medical Minute 9-1: HPV: The New Kissing Disease

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

The ads hit the airways last year-a vaccine for teenage girls that fights against HPV - it's the only cause of cervical cancer. But various strains of HPV also cause anal, penile, head and neck cancers.

"One morning I was shaving and I felt a lump here," said Edward Sivin, Oral Cancer Survivor.

That lump was cancer-triggered by HPV.

"I thought it was something young women would get."

Mount Sinai Surgeon Eric Genden says that ten years ago, it was rare to see this type of cancer in people who didn't smoke or drink excessively.

"This is not a disease of our parents, it's a disease of this generation," said Dr. Eric Genden/Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Studies show that if you've had more than five oral sex partners, your risk of oral cancer is increased five-fold. But that's not all.

"A lot of people think that this is just contracted through oral sex...that's not the case. There are cases documented through French kissing."

Breaking it down by the numbers, if you're a drinker, you're at five times the risk of developing oral cancers. If you smoke, that goes up to 19 times the risk. If you do both, it's 53 times. But if you have the HPV virus, your risk of developing cancer is 243 times the risk. Traditionally, patients would undergo a 12 hour surgery and two week hospital stay, followed by high dose radiation and chemo. Now a new transoral robotic surgery removes the tumor in less than two hours. But even with improved treatments-Doctor Genden says the battle against HPV induced cancer is just beginning.

As for Edward - he got his break. Four months after the robotic surgery, he's cancer free.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.

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ALL ABOUT HPV: Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it. In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years. But sometimes, certain types of HPV can cause genital warts in males and females as well as cervical cancer in females. (Source: CDC)

HPV & MEN: Much of the information about HPV virus (human papillomavirus) centers on women, since having the virus increases their risk of getting cervical cancer. But HPV virus in men can cause health problems, too. More than half of men who are sexually active in the U.S. will have HPV at some time in their life. Often, a man will clear the virus on his own, with no health problems. Researchers tested more than 1,100 healthy men from the three countries every six months for an average of two years. Their results indicated that the number of new infections among the men was high, and that risk stays with men throughout their lives. (Source: WebMD)

THE KISSING DISEASE? Oral sex and open-mouthed "French" kissing increases the risk of acquiring oral infections of HPV, a study shows. It is associated with gonorrheal pharyngitis - a sexually transmitted infection of the tonsils and back of the throat that immediately causes symptoms, and now is associated with mouth HPV infections that are silent yet may lead to oral cancer 10 to 20 years later. (Source: Study by the Ohio State University.)

NEW SURGERY TECHNOLOGY: A minimally invasive surgical approach developed by head and neck surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Head and neck tumor treatments often involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Conventional surgery may require an almost ear-to-ear incision across the throat or splitting the jaw, resulting in speech and swallowing deficits for patients. In comparison, the minimally invasive TORS approach, which accesses the surgical site through the mouth, has been shown to improve long term swallowing function and reduce risk of infection while speeding up the recovery time. When compared to traditional surgeries, after their cancers have been removed successfully, patients have been able to begin swallowing on their own sooner and leave the hospital earlier. TORS outcomes are markedly improved when compared to standard chemotherapy, radiation or traditional open surgical approaches for oropharyngeal cancer. ( Source: University of Pennsylvania)

For More Information, Contact:

Jeanne Bernard
News Specialist
The Mount Sinai Medical Center
Tel: (212) 241-9200
E-mail: jeanne.bernard@mountsinai.org


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