Paul Wyett's been through a rough couple months.
Last August, he was diagnosed with oro-pharynx cancer. It's a type of throat cancer experts say may double in 10 years. Doctor Ron Karni knows what to look for.
It's popping up in patients without warning.
Experts are now blaming part of the cancer's rise on human papilloma virus - or HPV.
As a result, experts hope the gardasil vaccine - which protects younger people against HPV may prevent oro-pharynx cancer, too. In 2009, about 70 percent of oro-pharynx cancers were HPV positive. In 2003, it was just 35 percent.
Paul had robotic surgery, chemo and radiation for his tumor.
Hopefully science will keep his child from fighting the same battles.
BACKGROUND: The oropharynx is the middle part of the throat, and includes the base of the tongue, tonsils, the back of the mouth, and the walls of the throat. When cancers form in these areas, they are usually squamous cell carcinomas. When left untreated, oropharynx cancer is usually fatal.
Symptoms of oropharynx, or oropharyngeal, cancer can be difficult to detect, but they include a chronic sore throat, unexplained weight loss, voice changes, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, and lumps in the neck, mouth, or the back of the throat. However, lumps in the neck, mouth, or back of the throat usually mean that the cancer has already started to spread to the lymph nodes. (SOURCE: www.clevelandclinic.org)
RISK FACTORS: The risk factors for oropharyngeal cancer include excessive drinking and tobacco use. Doctors have also found links between oropharyngeal cancer and the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is usually associated with cervical cancer. Increasing numbers of oropharynx cancer patients also test positive for HPV. (SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.org)
TREATMENT: Treatment for oropharyngeal cancer usually includes radiation, chemotheraphy, or surgery. Due to the nature of the symptoms, oropharynx cancer is often detected late, and therefore it's important to get started on treatment as soon as possible. In the past, surgery for oropharynx cancer was extremely invasive and had significant negative impact on a patient's ability to speak and swallow: the procedure involved splitting the jawbone in order to gain access to the tumors and lymph nodes.
However, newer treatments are far less invasive and have shorter recovery times. They include laser therapy, which uses beams of light to shrink tumors, and robot assisted surgery, in which the surgeon remotely operates hand controls that hold surgical instruments. This procedure allows the surgeon to operate on areas that are usually harder to reach.
Though the newer treatments for oropharyngeal cancer are vast improvements over older procedures, the link between the HPV virus and oropharynx cancer suggests that the cancer might actually be preventable-- if the relationship between HPV and oropharyngeal cancer is causal, the HPV vaccine, Guardasil, would be an effective tool in curbing the rise of oropharynx cancer.
* For More Information, Contact:
Ron J. Karni, M.D.
UT-Houston/Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center
(Information provided bt Ivanhoe)