The Head and neck cancer It is a pathology that is diagnosed every year to 17,000 people in Spain and causes around 350,000 deaths worldwide, as it became clear on the occasion of the celebration of the National Cancer Day Head and Neck, on December 10 .
Despite these figures, there is still a great social ignorance about this disease, its causes, symptoms and how it affects the quality of life of the patient. Reason that leads to the diagnosis is delayed in many patients and the chances of survival are affected.
“The classic risk factors for the development of tumors of the head and neck are the consumption of tobacco and alcohol. For some years now a direct association of the human papilloma virus infection (HPV) with the development of tumors in the area of the oropharynx (tonsils and base of the tongue), “says Miren Taberna, medical oncologist at ICO Hospitalet, who points out that the practice of oral sex It is the main mechanism of transmission of HPV to the oral cavity. At present, other causes such as the contact between mucous membranes during a deep kiss (kiss with tongue) can not be ruled out; However, contagion can be ruled out by the use of the same kitchen utensils or bath towels.
How likely is it to develop head and neck cancer from an HPV infection?
The incidence in Spain of oropharyngeal tumors related to HPV in 2013 was around 12 percent. However, Taberna indicates that experts know that there is an exponential increase in the number of cases in recent years in our area. Thus, in countries such as the United States or Northern Europe, the incidence already exceeds 60 percent (out of every 100 cases of oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed, 60 are produced by HPV).
“The most common is that the immune system eliminates the virus during the first year after infection, but in some people (few), the virus persists over time. The non-elimination of the virus, together with other factors, can lead to the development of an oropharyngeal tumor, although it is believed that it is necessary for the infection to remain around 10 years in order to develop a subsequent cancer, “the expert adds.
This type of tumor mainly affects young patients. The positive part is that, in general, carcinomas associated with HPV have a better prognosis than those produced by other factors, such as, for example, tobacco. “This means that they respond better to treatments and are more likely to be cured,” says Taberna.
Regarding the possibilities of HPV transmission to the couple by a person with head and neck cancer caused by HPV, the specialist clarifies that If the couple is stable for a long time, it is not recommended to change the sexual habits, since it is most likely that the couple became infected long ago and has already eliminated the virus.
“It is recommended that women of male patients perform regular follow-ups with their gynecologist and that, both men and women, consult a specialist before the appearance of lesions that may be related to the infection of the virus,” he adds.
In the case that couples are new, experts recommend using condoms when maintaining any type of sexual relationship.
Join the movement Blue Scarves
Giving information about head and neck cancer is essential to improve prevention and early detection. With this vocation arises Blue Scarves, a movement promoted by Merck with the aim of generating greater social awareness for cancer of the head and neck.
Through its Facebook page, Blue Scarves want to sensitize the population and inform the reality of this disease that affects more people every day and support patients and their families on the road to overcoming this cancer.
Thus, people who enter the page will have at their disposal updated information, advice, opinions and suggestions that will help them to live better with the disease. It is also a meeting point where they can express their doubts and find other patients who are in the same situation.