Of concern are the known strains of HPV (HPV 16, 18), which can lead to various cancers of the sexual and reproductive organs, as well as those of the mouth and throat. HPV-Related Oral Cancer encompasses the head and neck, including larynx, esophagus and tonsils. Since there may be typically no symptoms, this cancer is generally detected in its latest stage. Fortunately HPV-Related Oral Cancers have significantly higher survival rates, especially among non-smokers. “For reasons we are not entirely sure of, HPV-Related Cancers respond better to chemotherapy and radiation,” says Gregory Masters, M.D., an oncologist at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Newark, Delaware.
In the news recently, actor Michael Douglas, who is battling Stage IV throat cancer, reportedly tested positive for the HPV virus. This means his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, should be tested and is at great risk herself. In fact, leading specialist Dr. Randal Weber, an expert on cancers of the head and neck at Houston’s M D Anderson Center in Texas, urged the 40 year old actress to be tested on a regular basis noting that “she could contract several forms of cancer, including cervical, if she contracts HPV. People who test positive for this must remain vigilant.” Who is at risk?
•Individuals with “traditional” risk factors for oral cancer such as smoking and alcohol.
•Anyone who is sexually active (and keep in mind that the age may be younger than in previous generations).
•Any individual with a family history of oral cancer. As with many cancers, early detection is key and we recommend that, if at risk, you have a discussion with your dentist about having an ORAL HPV Diagnostic Test done.
Because our office—Dr. Gharagozloo specifically—is focused on the oral-systemic connection, our collaboration with Dr. Thomas Nabors, Chief Dental Officer of Oral DNA Labs, has been a match made in heaven. Dr. Nabors originally started researching bacteria found in the mouth to determine how best to treat it. From there, researchers decided to see if there was a genetic component and began to test DNA.
Oral DNA Labs became innovators in personalized diagnosis and originally offered 2 tests: one to determine the best antibiotic treatment to treat periodontal (gum) disease and one to test DNA to see susceptibility of periodontal disease. When Quest Diagnostics heard they were testing Oral DNA, aware of the rise in HPV diagnoses, they approached Oral DNA labs to develop an HPV test.
The test is relatively low in cost and totally painless. You will be asked to rinse and gargle with a saline solution that will be collected and sent to the Oral DNA facilities for testing. Once the results are received, typically within 7 days, we will schedule a time to review them with you. From there a plan will be developed to get or keep you healthy. Additional information can be found at oraldna.com.
During the month of April, many dental offices, through collaboration with the Oral Cancer Foundation, will be conducting free screenings. Check our website marygdds.com and schedule an appointment to get tested. It just might save your life.