The Unnerving Linear Relationship Between HPV and Cancer

Consequences and risks associated with sexual intercourse is not the first thing that a couple thinks about before engaging in this common activity. It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the rise, pathologists have linked some specific STDs to causing various forms of cancer. In particular, HPV which is known to cause cervical cancer in women is now and will be the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers in 2020. HPV is the most common STD in the United States and is usually undetected due to lack of symptoms. An active HPV infection can cause genital warts in any affected mucous membrane area, such as vagina, anus, penis, or mouth. Infections that persist longer than 2 months are the ones that you should be concerned about causing long-term problems such as cancers of the cervix or mouth and throat.

There are two forms of protection against HPV. For the younger teen to young adult population, there is an HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which will protect teens against the most common strands of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. For the rest of the population, protection such as use of a condom is the only way to protect one’s self from getting the infection. If you are already infected, you should always use protection when engaging in sexual activity to protect your partner. If you have symptoms such as a sore in your mouth for more than 3 weeks or difficulty swallowing, you should contact your primary care physician. Diagnosing an HPV-related oral cancer early gives you a better chance of being cured.

If this is concerning to you, which I hope it is, then you should be regularly tested for all sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections. It is recommended to be checked for a full panel annually. The full panel covers the most common kinds of STDs and STIs reported in the United States, which include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes simplex virus. If you feel that you have specific symptoms for an STD it is advised to get tested right away for the suspected infection or disease. With any STD/STI it is better to get treated immediately and you have a better outcome with the disease or infection and can learn to manage it appropriately.