A Different Cause of Oral Cancer
Last night I completed a seminar on HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). HPV 16 and HPV 18 are sexually transmitted strains of this virus best known for causing cervical cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, and through oral sex, oral cancer. In fact the amount of oral cancers developing as a result of HPV is quite alarming. Though these cancers react to lower doses of radiation than other forms of oral cancer, they can still have a profound impact on one's life. It is unfortunate that the 20 million Americans that carry HPV, have little or no awareness of it. That is why the disease numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. However, there are two manufacturers that supply a vaccination for HPV 16 and 18. This vaccination should be given to children before they become sexually active, as it shows no known benefit once the person is infected. The vaccination is considered to have the same safety margins as other childhood vaccinations, with a very low risk to reward ratio of side effects. The vaccination is now given to both males and females, since both are at risk for acquiring the disease, so having this discussion with your doctor is very important.
I have personally identified two patients having HPV positive oral cancers that have gone through surgery, and we continue to monitor. By no means were either of these patients considered to be sexually permiscuous. All it takes is one contact with the virus.
The oral examinations in our office constantly check for diseases like this, and a myriad of other diseases. The examination can be the most critical part of your dental appointment, though many patients do not realize the value of the oral disease screening. I am committed to staying continuously updated on diseases which can affect my patient's health and well being. I spend over 60 hours a year, outside of my office hours, reading and attending courses in order to stay informed on the latest research. This is all part of my responsibility in providing my patients with meaningful preventative care. Skipping or delaying your dental examinations prevents me from looking out for your wellbeing.