Most of the articles that I have written concern common problems that are related to ears, nose or throat such as sinus infections and allergies. Today I am going to write about something much less common but much more serious.
Unfortunately over the last 15-20 years within the United States there has been a drastic increase in throat cancer. Specifically this is cancer of the tonsil areas of the throat which include the sides of the throat and the back of the tongue. This type of cancer is not related to smoking or excessive alcohol use. It is related to exposure to a virus that may be in your system for more than 30 years without causing problems.
I am referring to human papilloma virus which is abbreviated as HPV. HPV is a virus that has been known in the medical field for over 60 years and normally causes benign wart type lesions. There are over 100 different types of the HPV and the vast majority of them cause no serious medical condition. Unfortunately, there is 1 type which is extremely difficult to test for, that can eventually lead to cancer.
Cancer of the throat tissues is something that I have treated since the days of my training in the early 1980s. At that time almost all of these types of cancers were related to cigarette smoking. Over the last 20 years there have been increased reports of cancer occurring in the tonsil tissue of men who do not smoke.
The one type of HPV that causes cancer can be silent and cause no problems for many years after it is acquired. Without getting into specific details, the way it is acquired is through sexual relations.
This is not a theoretical problem and that is why I am writing about this topic today. I personally see approximately 6-10 cases of tonsil cancer in men between the age of 45 and 65 every year.
This type of cancer is very easy to have a 100% cure if detected early.
The symptoms to raise concern include:
- A persistent sore throat on only one side of the throat.
- An area of fullness or lump sensation in the upper throat especially on one side.
- A swelling in the upper neck that has been present for more than 3 weeks without resolving.
If you or a close friend or family member have this type of symptom I recommend first seeing your primary doctor for evaluation then making sure follow-up is obtained with a specialist.
Again this is an issue that I feel the public should be more aware of and possibly reading this may help save someone from severe life-threatening disease.
I am including a link for those interested in additional information.