Most people Google health information at least once in a while. Heck, it may well be how you discovered our blog in the first place!
It’s a reality that raises a question, though: Exactly what kind of info are folks searching for?
According to one recent survey, the number one condition searched for here in Texas – and in more than a dozen other states – is human papilloma virus or HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection today. (In case you’re keeping score, diabetes and celiac disease were the next most commonly searched conditions.)
There’s good evidence that this virus plays a role in some oral cancers and may explain why more cases have been seen in younger adults through recent years. Research suggests it may be spread either through oral-genital or oral-oral routes.
A 2017 paper in Oral Implantology gives a good overview of the connection:
A systematic review of worldwide literature conducted by Kreimer et al. in 2005 reported that HPV DNA was detected in 35.6% of oropharyngeal cancers, with HPV type 16 accounting for a vast majority (87%) of HPV-positive cases. In addition to investigating the presence of HPV DNA, several studies have evaluated HPV functionality in oropharyngeal tumours1. These studies show specificity of HPV to tumor cell nuclei, integration of HPV DNA into the human genome, high HPV viral copy numbers, and high level expression of the HPV oncogenes (E6 and E7) in tumours, all of which underscore a causal association of HPV with oropharyngeal cancers.
Early on in the disease process, HPV-driven oral cancers seldom have obvious symptoms, and according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, there are currently no tests available for detecting them early. More, testing positive for HPV in the mouth doesn’t necessarily mean disease will develop.
Because of this, prevention is more important than ever. This includes not just practicing safer sex to minimize the risk of transmission but also hewing to a healthy lifestyle that includes a whole foods-based, nutrient rich diet, exercise, quality sleep, stress management, and addressing any toxic burdens on the body.
Just as important is seeing your dentist for regular oral cancer screening. The earlier any suspicious lesions are found, the better, for when oral cancers are caught early, treatment success is more likely.
So if you notice any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist to get them checked out so if they do indicate cancer, you can take steps to address it right away:
- A sore, swelling, or lump in the mouth that doesn’t heal within a few weeks
- A non-tender lump on your neck that lasts for at least two weeks
- Discoloration of the soft tissues in your mouth
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing or chewing
- A persistent sore throat, hoarse voice, or cough
- An earache on one side that lasts more than a few days