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Head and Neck Cancer

HPV

08/16/2010

Question:

I had stage IVa, poorly diferentiated, squamous cell carcinoma. Treatment was a Right Radical neck dissection followed by radiation with chemo. As anyone who has had this treatment knows, it`s tough. I have never smoked and rarely drank. I am 59 years old and have been married 38 years. We recently moved and I went to a new ENT. When I told him my history, he casually said, "Oh, the cause must be HPV." I am 1 year out from my first clean PET scan. I am so upset and depressed that my husband may have given me this STD. I have not been unfaithful. Is there another way to get this desease? Should my husband and I be tested for HPV? Will I just get this cancer again? I don`t think I can go through cancer treatment again if the cancer comes back. Also, I am afraid to have sex with him (but do so anyway). I am equally afraid to bring up this HPV question with him, especially if HPV is not the reason I got this cancer. My depression from cancer and other things is enough, but the ENT`s casual remark has really put me in a tail spin. Thanks in advance.

Answer:

HPV may be a contributing factor to the cancer you developed. The original biopsies may or may not have been tested for it’s presence. Much research is still ongoing about HPV and it’s role in head and neck cancer. What early research is indicating is tumors that are HPV positive, those patients do better longer term. With regards to your fears of your husband “given me this STD,” this may not be the case at all. You may have had the virus for years, even back to your infancy, as this can be transmitted during delivery.

As far as I know there is not treatment/cure for those who have tested positive for HPV. No one can say or predict if you will get cancer again. The best suggestion is to continue to be a non-smoker/non-tobacco user, limit your intake of alcohol, excerise & eat right, keep your regularly scheduled follow up appointments with your ENT and your annual physicals with your primary care physician, seek appropriate medical treatment for your depression if it continues and go on enjoying life.

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Response by:

Cheryl  Koliha-Brandt, MSN, RN, CNS, CORLN Cheryl Koliha-Brandt, MSN, RN, CNS, CORLN
Clinical Nurse Specialist and Instructor of
Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology 
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Case Western Reserve University

Pierre  Lavertu, MD, FRCS(C), FACS Pierre Lavertu, MD, FRCS(C), FACS
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University