Posts Tagged ‘HPV’

What You Need to Know About Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer AwarenessApril is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that head and neck cancers account for approximately 3 percent of cancers diagnosed every year in the United States and affect more than twice as many men as women?

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is responding to the increased need by opening a new and innovative head and neck cancer clinic at Emory University Hospital Midtown. The new space on the 10th floor includes 22 care rooms that allow multidisciplinary providers to come directly to the patient during a single appointment. Winship at Emory radiation oncology experts are also offering treatment for certain patients at the new Emory Proton Therapy Center, just two blocks from Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Here is more information about head and neck cancers that will help you to be aware of symptoms and potential risk factors.

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancer includes any cancer of the skin and mucosal surfaces of the head and neck, such as:

  • Mouth (gums and tongue)
  • Nose and sinuses
  • Oropharynx (tonsils, back of tongue)
  • Salivary glands
  • Skin of the head and neck
  • Throat, larynx

You use these organs for important functions every day, including speech, swallowing, smell and taste.

Smoking and drinking alcohol put you at greater risk of developing head and neck cancer. In addition, head and neck cancer, especially of the oropharynx and base of the tongue, may be linked to HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), a virus passed commonly during sexual activity.

Common Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer symptoms vary depending on the exact location, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing and/or pain when swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Non-healing ulcers in the mouth
  • Pain in the head and neck that does not improve
  • Lump in the neck that does not resolve with antibiotics
  • Hoarseness or other chronic changes in voice
  • Unexplained loosening of the teeth

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about screening for head and neck cancer.

Advanced Treatment for Head and Neck Cancers

Winship’s multidisciplinary team of head and neck experts meets regularly to discuss the right treatment options for patients. Therapy may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or different types of radiation therapy, including proton therapy.

At the Emory Proton Therapy Center, you can access the world’s most advanced radiation technologies and treatments for specific cancers, including head and neck cancers, as well as renowned specialists from Winship at Emory.

Proton therapy is a specialized form of external beam radiation, an important part of successful treatment for many forms of cancer. Specifically, for head and neck cancers, proton therapy delivers radiation with proton particles directly to the tumor, greatly reducing the amount of radiation to healthy, normal tissues. This may help prevent side effects from treatment, such as dryness of the mouth or long-term dental decay. Proton therapy may be integrated into your overall care plan, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Your doctor may also suggest other radiation treatment options depending on your particular form of cancer. In some cases, proton therapy may be the only treatment required.

Winship medical oncologists continue to see improved survival and quality of life for head and neck cancer patients who are treated with immunotherapy. Within the last three years, two FDA-approved drugs falling under the category of immunotherapeutic agents were cleared for use for metastatic cancers. Continued research to develop these drugs means you may experience fewer side effects when compared to chemotherapy.

Winship Cancer Institute surgeons are also changing the way head and neck cancer patients are treated through a minimally invasive procedure called Transoral Robotic Surgery, or TORS. During a TORS procedure, surgical robot arms are inserted into the patient’s mouth and used to remove cancerous tumors in the tonsils or back of the tongue.

Looking to the Future with Clinical Trials

At Winship at Emory, clinical trials allow access to novel treatments that aren’t yet available through standard clinical practice, or that may not be available anywhere else. The Emory Proton Therapy Center will also offer clinical trials alongside Winship to provide patients with more options. There are currently more than a dozen clinical trials specifically focused on head and neck cancers with the use of immunotherapy. Trials are also focused on various forms of metastatic diseases. It’s another way we’re focused on improving care and standards.

Learn more about advanced treatments for head and neck cancers at the Emory Proton Therapy Center and Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Local Firefighter Stomps Out Head and Neck Cancer: Get Screened on April 25!

While the human papillomavirus (HPV) is most commonly known as a risk factor for cervical cancer in women, it is also a growing risk factor for head and neck cancers in men. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers (tongue, tonsils, oropharynx, gums and other parts of the mouth) occur more than twice as often among men as they do among women. Tobacco and alcohol use are still the most common risk factors for all head and neck cancers, but recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 60 to 70 percent of cancers in the throat and base on the tongue may be linked to HPV.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all cancers in the U.S. Head and neck cancer includes cancers that occur in the head or neck region, ranging from the nasal cavity and sinuses, to the back of the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue.

In this FOX 5 video, meet Frank Summers, a local Atlanta-area firefighter who sought treatment at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, after his startling diagnosis of HPV-related head and neck cancer.


Free Head & Neck Cancer Screening

Want to get screened? Emory’s Department of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) will hold a FREE head and neck cancer screening tomorrow, Friday, April 25, 2014 at Emory University Hospital Midtown. The screening will be held from 8am to 12pm at the address below. Walk-ins are welcome!

Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
Emory University Hospital Midtown
Medical Office Tower (MOT), 9th Floor, Suite 9400
550 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

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As HPV-Associated Cancer Incidence Rates Rise: What’s the Value of the HPV Vaccine?

HPV Vaccine Cervical CancerA recent report from the National Health Institute shows that overall cancer rates among men and women are on the decline but the incidence rates of certain HPV-associated cancers are increasing. This news concerns healthcare professionals because they know there is a vaccine on the market that can prevent cervical cancer in girls and decrease the incidence of other HPV-related cancers. Gardasil, FDA approved and released in 2006, is a vaccine that helps protect girls ages 9 – 26 against two types of HPV that cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases, as well as two other types of HPV that cause genital warts, vaginal, vulvar, anal and oropharyngeal (head and neck, back-of-throat, tongue and tonsils) cancers.

The report also showed that the US vaccination rates among young girls, compared to other industrialized nations, are low. In 2010, less than 50% of girls ages 13 through 17 had received one HPV vaccine dose and unfortunately only a third received all three recommended doses. Completion rates were lower in certain areas of the country and with different population groups:

  • Girls living in the South
  • Girls living below poverty level
  • Hispanic girls

The US Government’s Healthy People 2020 target is 80 percent for the three dose coverage. It is important to educate healthcare providers and parents of the importance of completing the 3- dose vaccine schedule. The vaccine is safe and effective. It also is a great example of the medical advances that cancer researchers and clinicians can point to in the struggle against cancer. We could save the lives of many women and men by encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated today!

To get more information on the vaccine we recommend you speak to your pediatrician or child’s primary care physician. You can also review other blogs from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University physicians (listed below), or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Head and Neck Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 2,300 cases of HPV associated head and neck cancers are diagnosed each year in women and more than 9,000 in men. Although alcohol and tobacco continue to be major risk factors for developing cancer of the mouth, throat or voice box, recent studies by the CDC have shown that approximately 63% of cancers associated with the tonsils and base of tongue are associated with HPV. Join Emory Head and Neck Surgical Oncologist, Mark W. El-Deiry, MD FACS on Thursday, January 24 at 12 noon for an online web chat on HPV and Head & Neck Cancer. He will be available to answer questions regarding HPV and Head and Neck Cancer including:

• What is HPV?
• What are HPV-related head and neck cancers?
• How do you get tested for HPV?
• What are the symptoms of an HPV infection?
• Is there a vaccine for HPV?
• Lesions in the mouth and throat?
• Should I get my head and neck cancer tested for HPV?
• Are there any studies related to HPV and head and neck cancers?
• What is Emory doing to educate and prevent head and neck cancers?

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Get the Real 4-1-1 on HPV

Cervical Cancer Awareness HPVWho could have imagined that a three-letter virus – HPV — could generate so much confusion and controversy?

Oh, wait, there is precedence for all the political posturing, fear and mis-information about HPV, the human papillomavirus, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. We saw the same take place around HIV, a far more deadly virus and one that continues to wreak havoc and claims thousands of lives a year. And it took decades of advocacy, much of which is still ongoing, to bring attention to the need to stop HIV in its tracks, before it leads to AIDS. That same advocacy and public health campaigning is now underway to help consumers better understand HPV and what people can do about it, and how important it is for young people to receive vaccines that can protect them from infection with the virus.

Researchers have identified more than 40 types of HPV, a very common virus that the human body normally sheds on its own. Two types – HPV 16 and HPV 18 — are of special concern in the cancer community, though, because, undetected and untreated, they lead to most cases of cervical cancer. Now one of them, HPV16, is proving to be the cause of most new cases of throat cancers that develop at the base of the tongue and tonsils.

Routine pap tests and annual gynecological exams have lowered cervical cancer incidence in the United States, but cervical cancer is still one of the leading cancer killers of women worldwide. Thus, great research emphasis was placed on finding a vaccine to prevent infection with HPV 16 and 18 in the first place. Now there are two such HPV vaccines licensed by the FDA to prevent the spread of HPV and thus to prevent cervical cancer.

While screening with the Pap test has long proven an effective way to help prevent cervical cancer in developed countries, screening for HPV 16 infection for throat or other kinds of cancer would be fruitless. While 20 million Americans are estimated to be living with HPV 16 in their systems, 90% of those people will clear the virus on their own. A big concern with HPV 16 and throat cancer is that doctors do not yet understand why the virus becomes cancer in some.

Because the virus is so widespread yet causes cancer in a relatively small percentage of cases of infection, screening for it does not make sense, explains Dr. Shin, a leading head and neck cancer specialist at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The most important unanswered question about HPV16 and throat cancer is why does it develop into cancer in some people but not in the majority of people.

“How does this virus get into a host cell and then go into carcinogenesis? This is what we would like to address,” explains Dr. Dong Moon Shin. Winship researchers such as Shin are aggressively looking for answers.

Much of the confusion and political hoopla about HPV have stemmed from misinformation about the vaccine, which is unfortunate. The vaccine is safe. It is effective. Because of the rising incidence of oropharyngeal cancer, it is now advised that both girls and boys also receive the vaccine, which is given in a series of three shots. To be effective, the shots must be given before a girl or boy becomes sexually active and is not administered to females after they hit age 26. Some of the concern about the vaccine is that parents don’t like the idea of giving children another round of vaccines, but the HPV vaccines have been approved by the FDA after rigorous clinical trials. They work.

HPV facts & stats:

  • More than 40 types of HPV have been identified by researchers.
  • More than 20 million adult Americans are believed to be living with the HPV 16 virus.
  • In 90 percent of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV within two years.

Prognosis for cases of HPV16-caused throat cancer is good, so long as the patient is a non-smoker. Winship researchers and others are looking for ways to identify whether patients with HPV16-caused throat cancer need as much treatment as patients whose cancer is not caused by the virus.

Dr. Peter Rossi and Dr. Namita Khanna just hosted an online chat on the topic of HPV and cervical cancer. For their thoughts, check out the HPV / Cervical Cancer chat transcript.

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Cervical Cancer & HPV 101 – Part I

Cervical Cancer & HPV MD ChatJanuary is Cervical Health Awareness Month. To help raise awareness around cervical health and cervical cancer, this is the first of a two-part blog post series on the topic. Before we dig deeper into cervical cancer types and risk factors, here a few cervical health-related statistics you should be aware of:

  • Cervical cancer was previously the leading cancer-related cause of death for women in the U.S. In the last 40 years, however, the number of deaths from cervical cancer has dropped. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) & CDC, the decline is largely “the result of many women getting regular Pap tests, which can find cervical precancer before it turns into cancer.”
  • Approximately 10,800 new cases of HPV-related cervical cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
  • Greater than 70% of all cervical cancers (carcinomas) were squamous cell type, and nearly 20% were adenocarcinomas, between 1998-2003.

Cervical Cancer Types

Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are the two types of cervical cancer. Each type is distinguished based on its appearance under a microscope. Both squamous cell and adenocarcinoma begin in the cells that line hollow organs, but squamous cells have a thin, flat appearance while adenocarcinomas involve cells with secretory functions. As is noted in the statistic above, the squamous cell carcinoma type of cervical cancer is far more common and currently makes up approximately 90% of cervical carcinoma cases. Both types have similar risk factors, prognoses, and treatments.

Cervical Cancer Risk Factors


According to the CDC, “almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV),” which is why it is so important that parents and young women understand their options for getting vaccinated to protect themselves from typically symptomless HPV. Emory Healthcare will be hosting an online chat on the topic of cervical cancer and HPV. The chat will cover everything from cervical cancer prevention and diagnosis to treatment options, along with information on the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer.


As is the case the with all cancers, smoking increases your risk. Take steps to quit smoking today.

Birth Control

Having given birth to three or more children or having been on birth control pills for over 5 years can increase your risk for cervical cancer.

In our next post on cervical cancer, we’ll cover its connection to the HPV virus, including more information on the HPV vaccine and its effectiveness and the relationship between various HPV strains and cervical cancer. In the meantime, if you have questions on the topic of cervical cancer, or something you want to see covered in our next post, let us know in the comments section below!

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HPV16 Vaccine Safe and Effective

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Some cancers remain stubborn to treat. Pancreatic cancer, small cell lung cancer, late stage breast cancer and ovarian cancer are just a few of them. So when researchers find treatments – and even better, ways to prevent cancer – we celebrate.

Scientists at Winship Cancer Institute and many other research centers were therefore concerned about a recent statement that a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer causes mental illness. The statement is not accurate. The vaccine is safe. It is also effective. It is a great example of the medical advances that cancer researchers and clinicians can point to in the struggle against cancer.

The vaccine, which prevents the spread of Human Papilloma Virus-16 or HPV-16, has been approved by the FDA for use in girls who are not yet sexually active.  The vaccine is also under consideration for approval in boys to help prevent the spread of HPV16-related head and neck cancers caused by the same virus. Many researchers and clinicians consider HPV16-related head and neck cancers to be at epidemic levels.

“We don’t need to wait until all these molecular events are understood,” said Dong Moon Shin, M.D., director of Winship Cancer Institute’s head and neck cancer prevention program.  “This vaccine is successful in preventing cervical cancer, and we are hoping the vaccine provide similar preventive properties in head and neck cancer. We are very hopeful.”