What is oral HPV?
The link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer is well known. But when Michael Douglas revealed his treatment for stage 4 throat cancer and linked it to HPV and oral sex, most of us were left scratching our heads.
Douglas was right, oral HPV can cause cancer of the throat and other parts of the head and neck and those cancers are currently on the rise. While most strains of HPV are harmless, some, like high-risk HPV-16, can cause oral cancer.
Am I at risk from oral HPV?
Men are four times more likely to get infected with oral HPV and six times more likely to get infected with HPV-16 than women. And if you have same-sex partners, that’s another risk factor, alongside a high number of partners and tobacco use. However, by far the biggest at-risk group are hetero men in their 40s and 50s, indicating that oral sex performed on a woman is more risky than on a man.
I have genital HPV, can I get oral HPV?
If you have genital HPV you can infect yourself with oral HPV if you touch your genitals then your mouth. You can pass HPV from mouth to genitals in the same way.
Is there a test?
You can buy an over-the-counter test kit for HPV, or pick up your home STI kits in Medway from an organisation like https://www.pitstopplus.org/. You should also ask your dentist to look for signs of oral cancer at your next checkup, especially if you have a sore that won’t heal or any swelling or discoloration.
How does HPV cause cancer?
By making changes to the infected cells in the throat, anus or cervix. Very few people develop cancer, and in most cases, the infection clears the body in two years. But if you’re in a high-risk category it makes sense to use a condom for oral sex.
Can I get vaccinated?
There is evidence that the HPV vaccine given to women and girls to protect against cervical cancer may be beneficial for men who have sex with men and are at risk of anal cancer. A trial is currently underway to assess the impact of a vaccination scheme for men.
How can I get rid of HPV?
You can’t get rid of HPV itself, but you can get treatment for genital warts and cancer caused by HPV.