What is HPV tonsil cancer?

When i first was told i had HPV tonsil cancer , i must admit i was perplexed, – the only thing i knew about HPV from the media was the cervical cancer type, which of natural reasons only affect women.

HPV (Human papillomavirus) is a virus, at present the only virus which in itself can cause cancer and categorized as a STD (sexually transmitted disease), but it can also transmit  by other means.

My doctors and oncologists informed me, that the HPV head and neck cancer is on the rise and is becoming the most common head and neck cancer type, partly due to that HPV is present in approx 80 percent of the population and partly due to that fewer people smoke and thereby get the regular head and cancer type.

The majority of HPV strain are not dangerous,they can cause warts, but nothing more.

Off the +170 HPV strains, about 40 can infect the genital regions and other mucous membranes, of the 40 about 13 strains can cause cancer, but it is primarily the two strains  HP16 and HP18, which account for 80 pct of cancer incidents.

These strains can stay undetected and deactivated in your body for many years without doing any harm and then suddenly come to life, medical science has not yet found out why.

The swollen lymph node is the primarily sign of HPV head and neck cancer, but this sign is much more often just a harmless infection, so doctors will rule out other causes before examining deeper.

It is very important when it is determined that a lymph node is infected with cancer, that the doctors find the cancer source, otherwise the probability for a relapse is very high.

As they told me the if we consider the infected lymph node as the child, they need to find the mother as well.

The Good

  • The survival rate for those with HPV-positive head and neck tumors is very high, about 85-95% in non-smoking people depending on the stage. The survival rate for lifestyle affected head and neck cancer is about 45-50%
  • Contrary to HPV cervical cancer, HPV tonsil cancer is much more detectable in its early stage, due to the visible swollen lymph nodes in the neck. Therefore treatment will usually begin long before the spreading has developed much.
  • HPV tonsil cancer does not create distant metastasis, it spreads only locally. But untreated HPV tonsil cancer will be able at some time to spread from mouth to throat and further to lungs, if nothing is done.
  • Contrary to the treatment for Breast cancer which lasts about 6 months and recovery is usually additional 6 months, the treatment for tonsil cancer is about 6-7 weeks, with same recovery time  and then its done! and the worst side effects should be gone.

The Bad

  • At present, the standard treatment plan used is for treating HPV tonsil cancer is the same for the much worse regular tonsil cancer and by all means it is a tough treatment, which can lead to permanent side and late effects. Proton therapy is being tested, which should lead to fewer side effects and discomfort. 
  • If you are an adult, at present there is no way to protect yourself against the disease, abstaining from sex is unfortunately not guaranteeing anything, as many things such as a toilet seat can transfer the disease as well.
  • The vaccination for HPV cervical cancer has not yet been determined, whether it will protect fully against HPV head and neck cancer.