There has been a rise in throat cancer, a type of cancer that affects the oropharynx, which includes the back of the throat, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils. Throat cancer can cause symptoms such as a persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, pain in the throat or neck, constant coughing, hoarseness, lumps in the neck or mouth, changes to the voice, weight loss, and earaches.
One of the most common causes of throat cancer is infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of viruses that can be transmitted through sexual contact. HPV can infect the mouth and throat and cause abnormal cell growth that can lead to cancer. HPV is thought to cause 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States.
Oral sex is one of the main ways that HPV can be spread from one person to another. Oral sex involves using the mouth to stimulate the genitals or anus of a partner. Oral sex can expose the mouth and throat to HPV that may be present in the genital or anal area of a partner.
The risk of getting oral HPV and throat cancer from oral sex may depend on various factors, such as the number of sexual partners, the frequency of oral sex, the use of condoms or dental dams, the history of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the immune system status. Some experts predict that HPV-caused mouth and throat cancers will become more common than cervical cancer due to changes in oral sex attitudes and behaviors, with increasing numbers of men and women partaking in the sexual trend.
The good news is that throat cancer from HPV infection due to oral sex can be prevented and treated. The best way to prevent HPV infection is to get vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccine can protect against the strains of HPV that are most likely to cause cancers of the throat, cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and anus. The vaccine is recommended for children aged 11 or 12 years, but it can also be given to older adolescents and young adults up to age 26. The vaccine has proven to be safe and effective in preventing HPV infection.
Another way to prevent HPV infection due to oral sex is to practice safe sex by using condoms and dental dams. However, these methods are not 100% effective, as HPV can infect areas that are not covered by condoms or dental dams. Therefore, it is important to get regular screening for HPV and other STIs, especially if you have multiple sexual partners or a new partner.
If you are diagnosed with throat cancer from HPV infection due to oral sex, there are different treatment options available depending on the stage and location of the cancer. The main treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy with some of these treatments causing side effects such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, changes to taste and speech, infection, fatigue, nausea, and hair loss.
Nonetheless, there is a new approach to treating HPV-related throat cancer that aims to reduce these side effects and improve quality of life. This approach is called de-escalation therapy, which means using lower doses of radiation or chemotherapy than usual while still achieving the same cure rate. De-escalation therapy is based on the idea that HPV-related throat cancers are more sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy than other types of throat cancers and therefore do not need as much treatment.
De-escalation therapy is still being studied in clinical trials to determine its safety and effectiveness. Some of the potential benefits of de-escalation therapy are less damage to healthy tissues, faster recovery time, better preservation of swallowing and speech functions, and lower risk of long-term complications such as heart disease and secondary cancers.
If you are interested in de-escalation therapy for HPV-related throat cancer due to oral sex, you should talk to your doctor about whether you are eligible for a clinical trial or if there are any other options available for you. You should also ask your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of de-escalation therapy compared to standard treatment.