Oral HPV and Oral Cancer: Are You At Risk?

What Is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one the most common virus groups in the world. There are many different types of HPV, and the health risk varies depending upon the type of virus. While some types of HPV are low-risk and may cause skin lesions such as warts, there are other HPV types that are classified as high-risk. These high-risk HPV types may cause HPV infection that may lead to cancer. For example, medical research shows that certain high-risk types of HPV are linked to approximately 90% of cervical cancers. Similarly, recent studies show that these same high-risk types cause cancers of the mouth, tongue, tonsils, and throat areas. Along with excessive smoking and alcohol consumption, specific types of oral HPV are now considered to be a separate and serious risk factor for developing cancer in the head and neck regions.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of oral HPV Infections?

Clinical signs of oral HPV infections vary depending on the type of HPV that is present in the infection. Low-risk oral HPV types lead to wart, or “papilloma.” High-risk oral HPV may present as a sore that won’t heal, which is a worrisome sign of potential cancer.

How Do I Know If I Have An Oral HPV Infection?

Early oral HPV infections do not typically cause any clinical signs or symptoms; thus, a visual exam would not detect people that may already have an infection caused by oral HPV. Today, however, a simple test called OraRisk HPV is available that can detect oral HPV infections very early.

The OraRisk HPV Test

Dr. Marzban can perform this easy test as a part of your routine oral health exam. The OraRisk HPV test uses a sterile saline rinse to determine if an oral HPV infection is present.

   Here’s how the test is done:

Dr. Marzban will ask you to “swish and gargle” with a sterile saline solution for 30 seconds.    You will then empty the saline from your mouth into a small, coded container that will be sent to OralDNA Labs for processing. Dr. Marzban will receive your test results and contact you to discuss them.

 Who should be tested for Oral HPV?

  • Individuals with “traditional” risk factors for oral cancer such as smoking and alcohol
  • Males and females that are sexually active
  • Individuals with a family history of oral cancer

Why Is It Important For You To Take The OraRisk HPV Test?

When oral HPV causes an infection, there are generally three possible outcomes:

  • It may “clear” without causing cell changes (usually occurs within the first 12 months)
  • It may linger for long periods of time without any clinical signs or changes
  • It may progress and later cells, leading to malignant changes and cancer of the mouth, tongue, tonsils, or throat

Are You At Risk? Get tested today and be certain.

           Have a great year!