"My Voice"

Order a paperback or Kindle Edition or e-book of "My Voice: A Physician's Personal Experience with Throat Cancer," the complete 282 page story of Dr. Brook's diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from throat cancer.

Order a paperback or Kindle Edition or e-book of "The Laryngectomee Guide," the 170 page practical guide for laryngectomees. To obtain a free paperback copy fill this form and mail it to J. Harrison 11390 W. Theo W. Allis, WI 53214, or fax it to 414 227 9033. The Guide can also be requested by emailing to customersupport.us@atosmedical.com

Obtain and/or view a video presentation, a slide presentation and an instructive manual how to ventilate laryngectomees and neck breathers (free). A self examination guide for detection of primary and recurrent head and neck cancer is available.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Laryngectomee Guide is available

The 170 pages guide provides practical information assisting laryngectomees and their caregivers in dealing with medical, dental and psychological issues. The guide contains information about the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy; the methods of speaking after laryngectomy; and how to care for the airway, stoma, heat and moisture exchanger filter, and voice prosthesis. In addition it addresses eating and swallowing issues, medical, dental and psychological concerns, respiration and anesthesia, and travelling as a laryngectomee.

A Guide is available as paperbackKindle Edition, and e book.
To obtain a free paperback copy file this form and fax it to 414 227 9033. Alternatively it can be mailed to J. Harrison 11390 W. Theo Trecker West Allis WI 53214. It can also be requested by e mailing customersupport.us@atosmedical.com or calling 1-800-217-0025.

To obtain a free e book copy of the guide in English click this link. To obtain a free e book of the Guide in Turkish click this link.

Reviews of the Guide (see all reviews):

March 8, 2014

This book is a great resource for patients, families, health care providers, and medical and speech pathology students. It is a comprehensive guide to understanding and managing the issues associated with laryngectomy surgery and radiation treatment. It provides the unique perspective of Dr. Brook, a laryngectomee, physician, and patient advocate. Thank you Dr. Brook for all of your wonderful contributions to the laryngectomee community. As a speech pathologist in the field, I highly recommend this book.

Meryl Kaufman M.Ed., CCC-SLP, BRS-S
The Emory Voice Center, Emory University
Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
Atlanta, GA

March 10, 2015

Dr. Brook,

Your book has become an excellent resource that we now use in our facility for all our laryngectomy patients.  It now has replaced the previous educational materials we used to provide the patients.  Thank you so much for your rich contribution!

Ginny Chapa, CCC-SLP
Mayo Clinic Florida
Jacksonville Florida

Initial surgical therapy for advanced-stage laryngeal cancer may increase survival.

A single academic center performing a high rate of surgical therapy, including total laryngectomy, to treat advanced-stage laryngeal cancer had a higher 5-year survival rate than national levels in a small study. Dr Blake Joseph LeBlanc, of Louisiana State University (LSU) Health-Shreveport and co-authors evaluated survival rates at their institution for primary surgical treatment of advanced-stage tumor with outcomes in the National Cancer Database (NCDB).

 In an analysis of 165 patients with laryngeal cancer in the LSU Health tumor registry from 1998 to 2007, 48 (29%) had clinically early-stage (I/II) disease and 117 (71%) had advanced-stage (III/IV) disease.

Of the 117 patients with advanced-stage disease, 64 (55%) underwent primary surgical therapy to include total laryngectomy or pharyngolaryngectomy .Data from the NCDB shows the national rate of laryngectomy declined from 60% in the 1980s to 32% in 2007.
Five-year survival for stage IV was at LSU was 56% compared with 32% nationally.

The authors noted "This study suggests that initial surgical therapy for advanced-stage disease may result in increased survival compared with organ preservation".

Friday, March 21, 2014

Better survival even after disease progression in HPV-positive head and neck cancer

Human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive tumor status is associated with a significantly better rate of overall survival in patients with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) that has progressed, according to Carole Fakhry, MD, and colleagues of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland.

Previous studies has shown reduced risk of cancer progression in patients with newly diagnosed local-regionally HPV-positive OPSCC. However, no information was available regarding the role of the HPV status in overall survival after cancer had progressed.

The retrospective study evaluated 181 patients with stage III-IV OPSCC, and included 105 who were HPV-positive and 76 who were HPV-negative.

Even though no difference was found in the median time to progression in relation to the HPV tumor status (8.2 vs 7.3 months; P = .67), HPV-positive OPSCC had significantly improved rates of overall survival at 2 years compared with HPV-negative patients (54.6% vs 27.6%; P< .001).

Factors significantly associated with increased risk of death included high tumor stage (T4 vs T2-3) at diagnosis, fewer cisplatin treatment cycles (≤1 vs 2-3), and distant versus local/regional recurrence. Smoking was also an important risk factor, with the risk of death after progression increased by 1% per cigarette pack-year at diagnosis (P = .002).

Significant reductions in the risk of death were associated with HPV-positive tumor status and undergoing salvage surgery. The overall rate of mortality was reduced by 50% in individual with HPV-positive tumors.

Sites of HPV oral cancer

Friday, March 7, 2014

HPV-positive squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx linked to later onset distant metastasis

Squamous cell carcinomas of the oropharynx (SCCOP) associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) usually have better outcomes that those not associated with HPV.  Patients with these cancers experience a later onset of distant metastasis and more metastatic sites in atypical locations, according to a new study by Samuel Trosman, MD and colleagues, of the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio. 

The study illustrated that even though the rates of distant metastasis is similar between patients with HPV-positive and HPV-negative SCCOP, distant metastases occur significantly later and involves more body sites. The researchers evaluated 285 patients with Stage III to IV SCCOP who were treated with chemo-radiation therapy between 2002 and 2013. Among the patients, 27 of 245 (11%) HPV-positive and 8 of 40 (20 %) HPV-negative patients developed distant metastases.

The radiation therapy regimen for the patients was either 3-dimensional radiotherapy or intensity modulated radiation therapy with doses from 66 to 79 Gy. Concurrent chemotherapy consisted of cisplatin, cisplatin/5-fluorouracil, or cetuximab.

Even though the distant metastasis rate between the HPV-positive and HPV-negative groups was similar, the mean time to develop the distant metastasis was significantly longer after the completion of treatment for HPV-positive patients (21.6 months) than for HPV-negative patients (7.0 months; P = .03).

The most common site of metastasis in both HPV-positive and negative individuals were the lung followed by bone. Patients who were HPV-positive had significantly higher average numbers of involvement in metastatic subsites compared with HPV-negative patients (2.0 vs 1.1; P = .026).

Among HPV-positive patients, 21 of 27 (78%) had  >1 metastatic site, and 12 (44%) had distant metastases involving >1 organ system, compared with only 1 of 8 (12.5%) HPV-negative patients. Spread to less typical metastatic sites occurred more often  in HPV-positive patients, and included liver (6), intra-abdominal lymph nodes (3), brain (2), pleura (2), and peritoneum (1). Local treatment failure occurred more often in HPV-negative patients (3 of 8  or 38%) compared to HPV-positive patients (4 of 27 or 15%).

 Sites of  oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dustin Hoffman treated for throat cancer

Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, has been successfully treated for throat cancer and is "feeling great," his spokeswoman confirmed to People magazine. His publicist said the actor had been "surgically cured" after his cancer was detected at an early stage. No further details were provided though Hoffman is thought to be recovering well and is in good health.

The two-time Oscar winner and director, 75, will undergo doctor-recommended preventative treatments to minimize the chance of a recurrence of cancer in the years ahead.

Dustin Hoffman lighting a cigarette

Friday, January 17, 2014

No increased risk of infection for sex partners of individuals with HPV-related oral cancers

Human papilloma virus (HPV)-related oral cancers are rising in prevalence among white men in the US, and fear of transmitting the virus can lead to anxiety, divorce, and curtailing of sex and intimacy among couples. Persistent oral HPV infections are a risk for developing oropharyngeal cancers, located at the base of the tongue, tonsils, pharynx and soft palate.

A multicenter, pilot study performed by Johns Hopkins investigators found that spouses and long-term partners of patients with mouth and throat cancers related to infection with the HPV appear to have no increased prevalence of oral HPV infections. The study’s results suggest that long-term couples need not change their sexual practices.

The researchers conducted surveys and took oral rinse samples from 166 male and female patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers and 94 spouses and partners. More than half of patients had at least one type of HPV DNA detectable in their oral rinses, including HPV16, the viral type most commonly associated with oral and other cancers. After a year, only seven patients (6%) still had oral HPV16 DNA detectable.

Of the 94 spouses/partners, six had oral HPV infections (6.5 %). These infections were not detectable one year later. No oral cancers were detected among 60 spouses/partners who underwent a visual oral examination.

The investigators concluded that oral HPV prevalence among partners was comparable to rates observed among the general population, and even though long-term spouses and partners have been exposed to HPV they cleared the virus. They also concluded that more research is needed to determine the timeline of progression for HPV-related oral cancers and how HPV is transmitted and suppressed by the immune system.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Importance of patient reporting new symptoms in the early detection of head and neck cancer recurrence

A recent study by Nisa and colleagues from Sion, Switzerland, evaluated the value of patients' reported symptoms as an indicator of tumor recurrence after definitive treatment for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer recurrence occurred in 30 of the 101 patients included in the study had local and/or regional recurrences.

One-third of all patients had early stage, and two-thirds had advanced-stage tumors; two-thirds received only single treatment modality (i.e., surgery, radiation) and one-third had multiple treatment modalities. Most patients were male, with a mean age of 61.5 years (range, 29-85 years), and had at least one risk factor (tobacco and alcohol).

New-onset symptoms had the best correlation with cancer recurrences. Localized pain, pain on swallowing (odynophagia), and impaired ability to produce voice (dysphonia) were independently correlated with recurrences. Correlation was better between 6 to 12 and 18 to 21 months after therapy and in patients initially treated with only one type of therapy (i.e., surgery or radiation alone).  Primary stage and tumor site had no effect on the correlation.

The study underlines the importance of close and continuous follow-up after treatment of head and neck cancer especially during the first 2 years. It also illustrates that patient input and vigilance in reporting new symptoms are instrumental in diagnosing cancer recurrence. Close follow-up has other important goals, especially the identification and management of treatment-related complications and psycho-social support.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Can smoking marijuana offer protection from head and neck cancer?

Cannabinoids, constituents of marijuana smoke, have been recognized to have potential antitumor properties. A study by Liang and colleagues from  Brown University, Providence, RI, found that long-term marijuana smokers were roughly 62 % less likely to develop head and neck cancers than people who did not smoke pot.

The study featured 434 patients with head and neck cancers, which include tumors in the mouth, tongue, nose, sinuses, throat and lymph nodes in the neck, and 547 individuals without these cancers seen in the Greater Boston area from 1999 to 2003. After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of HNSCC even in those who smoked or consumed alcohol. Among marijuana users moderate weekly use was associated with reduced risk. The magnitude of reduced risk was more pronounced for those who started use at an older age. 

In contrast a pooled analysis from nine case-control studies from the US and Latin America by Marks and colleges, found that as compared with never marijuana smokers, ever marijuana smokers had an elevated risk of oropharyngeal and a reduced risk of oral tongue cancer. Evaluated were 1,921 oropharyngeal cases, 356 oral tongue cases, and 7,639 controls. The risk of oropharyngeal cancer remained elevated among never tobacco and alcohol users. The risk of oral tongue cancer was reduced among never users of tobacco and alcohol. These results suggest that the association of marijuana use with head and neck carcinoma may differ by tumor site.

Marijuana leaves

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Human papillomavirus (HPV) and oropharyngeal cancer. An update on prevention from the CDC.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers. However, in most cases HPV goes away on its own before causing any health problems. The same types of HPV that infect the genital areas can also infect the mouth and throat. Some types of oral HPV can cause cancers of the head and neck. Other types of oral HPV can cause warts in the mouth or throat.

HPV can cause cancers in the back of the throat (oropharynx), most commonly in the base of the tongue and tonsils. These cancers are called “oropharyngeal cancers.” Cancer caused by HPV often takes years to develop after initially getting an HPV infection.  It is unclear if having HPV alone is sufficient to cause oropharyngeal cancers, or if other factors interact with HPV to cause these cancers. 

Signs and symptoms oropharyngeal cancers may include persistent sore throat, earaches, hoarseness, enlarged lymph nodes, pain when swallowing, and unexplained weight loss. Some individuals have no signs or symptoms or may only have a lump in the neck as the initial presentation.

Knowing whether ones cancer was caused by HPV may help physicians determine the prognosis for survival.  Head and neck cancers caused by HPV infection respond better to current treatments as compared to head and neck cancers caused by tobacco or alcohol use.  There are also new treatment options such as vaccine clinical trials and de-intensification radiation protocols available to patients whose cancers are caused by HPV.

About 7% of people in the USA have oral HPV. But only 1% of them have the type of oral HPV that is found in oropharyngeal cancers (HPV type 16). Oral HPV and cancers of the oropharynx are about 3 times more common in men than in women. About 8,400 people are diagnosed in the USA with cancers of the oropharynx caused by HPV. 

It is uncertain how people get oral HPV. Some studies suggest that oral HPV may be passed on during oral sex (from mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact) or open-mouthed (“French”) kissing, others have not. The likelihood of getting HPV from kissing or having oral sex with someone who has HPV is not known. One can reduce the risk of getting HPV by using condoms and dental dams during oral sex, since they serve as barriers, and can stop its transmission from person to person.

There is no FDA-approved test to diagnose HPV in the mouth or throat, and medical and dental organizations do not recommend screening for oral HPV.

HPV vaccines that are now on the market were developed to prevent cervical and other genital cancers. It is possible that HPV vaccines might also prevent oropharyngeal cancers, since the vaccines prevent an initial infection with HPV types that can cause oropharyngeal cancers, but studies have not yet determined if HPV vaccines will prevent oropharyngeal cancers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Psychological disorders ( including depression and PTSD) and social withdrawal in laryngectomees

The loss of voice and a decrease in physical functioning due to breathing through a stoma are known to result in long-term changes in daily and professional life. There is growing evidence that head and neck cancer patients including laryngectomees are more often anxious and distressed than other cancer patients. Prevalence rates of psychiatric problems in laryngeal cancer patients vary from 20% to 60 %, if nicotine dependence is taken included. Studies reported depression in 4-20% of head and neck cancer patients, anxiety disorder and phobia in 2 - 6%,  adjustment disorder in 4 - 13%, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1 -2% and alcohol dependence in 5-33%.

Several recent studies from the University of Leipzig in Germany explored the role of psychological problems in laryngectomees.

Psychological disorders were diagnosed in about a quarter of patients during the first year after laryngectomee according to a new study by Keszte et al. These were evenly distributed among males and females. However, women suffered more often from PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. Alcohol dependency developed in 80% of the patients who had acquired no voice 80% following laryngectomy. Only 7% of individuals with any mental disorder received psychotherapy one year after laryngectomy. None of the patients diagnosed with alcohol dependency received psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment.

Another study by Danker et al. found that more than 40% of larngectomees withdrew from conversation. Only one-third of all laryngectomees regularly took part in social activities. About 87% perceived stigmatization because of their changed voice and more than 50% felt embarrassed because of their tracheostoma. Almost one-third of the patients had increased anxiety and depression.

These studies illustrates that only one in twelve patients who suffered from psychological disorders following laryngectomy receive adequate psychotherapeutic support. Because mental health seems to be related to successful voice restoration, more effort is needed to promote speech rehabilitation after laryngectomy.  Also more programs are needed to combat alcohol dependency. The studies also highlights the urgent need for psychological and social support programs for laryngeal cancer patients. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lectures by Dr. Brook

Itzhak Brook MD gave a Grand Rounds lecture on May 16, 2012 for the Department of Surgery at Scott & White Medical Center, Texas A&M College of Medicine in Temple Texas. The lecture entitled " The patient Experience as a Laryngectomee" was about his experiences as a patient with head and neck cancer. The topics discussed include dealing with the medical and psychological issues, voice rehabilitation and life challenges as a laryngectomee. The presentation can be watched on YouTube. 

Dr. Brook delivered the
  J. Conley Medical Ethics Lecture, the Scholar Award keynote lecture at the opening ceremony of the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck surgery Foundation OTO EXPO in Washington DC on September 9, 2012. His lecture is entitled " A Physician’s Perspective as a Throat Cancer Patient "A description of the presentation was published in the Meeting Daily NewsletterThe presentation can be watched on YouTube.


A Physician’s Perspective as a Throat Cancer Patient 

A presentation entitled “ Patient Voices in Diagnostic Error in Medicine “ in Diagnostic Error in Medicine, 5th international Conference of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, John Hopkins School of  Medicine, Baltimore Maryland, November 13, 2012.

A Grand Rounds lecture entitled  "Preventing Medical Errors: a Physician's Personal Experience as a laryngeal Cancer" was delivered to the Department of Medicine Louisiana State University on April 16, 2013. The lecture can be read on line and It can be viewed on YouTube.

Preventing medical errors

Keynote speaker University Hospitals Quality and Patient Safety Fair, Case Medical Center, School of Medicine Case Western University:  “Preventing medical errors: a physician personal experience as a laryngeal cancer patient.” Cleveland, Ohio, March 5, 2014. The presentation can be watched on YouTube.

Personal experiences as a patient with laryngeal cancer: Medical errors. University Hospitals , Cleveland,  March 5, 2014.

 Signing copies of "My Voice"

A Grand Rounds lecture entitled “A Physician’s Personal Experience as a Head and Neck Cancer Patient” was delivered to the Department of Medicine Veterans Administration Medical Center Washington DC, June 26, 2013. It can be viewed on YouTube.

Dr Brook presenting a lecture on October 10, 2014, about "Voice rehabilitation after laryngectomee" in the Humanism in Medicine seminar at Iona College New York.

Dr. Brook's  interview on Feb. 2, 2014 about the power of a hug and human touch in patient care based  on his personal experiences as a physician and a patient.

The power of a hug

Dr. Brook's was interviewed on iRadio on February 21, 2014, about life challenges as a laryngectomy,prevention of medical errors, patient's advocacy, and choosing the best treatment. To listen click here.

A presentation entitled "Life challenges as a laryngectomee" was delivered to the Lost Cord Club in Cleveland Ohio on September 28, 2012, and the Louisiana State University Feist-Weiller Cancer Center in Shreveport, New Voice Club on April 17, 2013. The last lecture can be viewed on YouTube. Comments on the lecture are available.

Life challenges as a laryngectomee

Dr. Brook gave a talk at the 5th Annual David Nasto Memorial Oral Cancer Awareness Walk in New Jersey on September 22, 2012 . He also signed copies of his book "My Voice". All proceeding were donated to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

He also presented a talk in a symposium about medical errors in oncology at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting on June 3, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. see picture below. 
The contents of the lecture was published in the ASCO Educational Book. A summay of the lecture was published at the ASCO Post. A news release about the symposium was published at the ASCO Daily News. 

Dr. Brook presented a lecture at the 8th International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 23, 2012. The talk's title was “ Putting the Personal Back in Personalized Cancer Therapy; A Physician’s Experience as a Head and Neck Cancer Patient”.

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) booth in the International Society of Laryngectomee  Annual Meeting in Durham NC June 6-8, 2012. Copies of the book " My Voice" by I. Brook MD were given out to the attendees. In the picture: from left to right: John Groves Director of HNCA, Itzhak Brook MD, member of the HNCA Board of Directors, and Doug Ulery Marketing Director of HNCA.

Long-term use of Heat-Moisture Exchangers (HMEs) among laryngectomees: medical, social and psychological patterns

A study published in 2013 by Brook et al. evaluated the long-term use of HMEs and other accessories by laryngectomized patient and especially on the use of the Provox® Micron.

 After laryngectomy, pulmonary protection is mostly acquired by means of using a Heat and Moisture Exchanger (HME) that is placed on an airtight seal around the stoma. The effects of HMEs on tracheal climate have been well-described, and the filtration effect of an HME with electrostatic filter has been described . 
This study investigated long-term use of HMEs in laryngectomees. A questionnaire was sent to 195 laryngectomees of which 75 were returned. Over 85% of all respondents used an HME, of which 77% were compliant users (i.e. >20 hrs/day). Incidence of pulmonary illnesses (either prior of post-surgery) was about 25%. Over 90% of all respondents were heavy smokers prior to their laryngectomy. One-third of all respondents are regularly exposed to dusty environments. Compliant HME-users tend to use less external humidifiers and vaporizers, showing a better pulmonary status and less health-care costs. Regarding Quality of Life, patients using a FreeHands device tended to have the most social contacts (r=.251; p=.030).The prevalence of depression is high, pointing to an urgent need to recognize and treat psychiatric problems like depression and suicidal ideation in this patient group.

Provox® Micron HME

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Heartburn caused by gastric reflux is a risk factor for laryngopharyngeal cancer

Gastric reflux can reach the upper airway, inducing cellular damage in the epithelial lining. This may be a risk factor for development of laryngopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma although the medical literature is inconclusive. Frequent heartburn caused by gastric reflux was found to increase the risk for development of throat cancer, and over-the-counter antacids medication may provide protection from it, according to a newstudy  published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
Researchers from Brown University studied heartburn incidence and medication use in 631 patients with squamous cell cancers of the throat and vocal cords who were not heavy smokers or drinkers, matching them with 1,234 healthy controls.
The investigator found that individuals who had reported a history of frequent heartburn were 78% more likely to have cancer than those who did not. Those with frequent heartburn who took antacids reduced their risk for cancer by 41%, compared with those whose heartburn was not treated.
There was no reduced risk among those taking proton pump inhibitors (i. e., Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex) or histamine H2 receptor antagonists (i.e., Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac). However, this may be because those who took such medications were likely to have had severe acid reflux, and not because those drugs are ineffective. The authors recommended that further studies are needed to clarify the possible chemopreventive role of antacid use for patients with gastric reflux.

Michael Douglas shares his treatment experiences for throat cancer and its association with sexually transmitted HPV.

Michael Douglas underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment in 2011 for stage four throat cancer. He described his difficult personal experiences on the road to recovery in a recent interview. Douglas was shaken when he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer in 2010 after it took his physicians nine months to make the diagnosis. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Michael Douglas said that the throat cancer he was diagnosed three years ago was associated with HPV human papillomavirus (HPV) which can be transmitted during oral sex. Through this revelation Douglas pushed the disease onto the mind of millions of Americans who may have become concerned about this cancer for the first time. 

His first symptoms were a sore tooth that resembled a dental infection. He was seen by a periodontist and an otolaryngologist who repeatedly gave him antibiotics without any effect on the pain. After the clinicians assured him that he is better he left to an overseas vacation and only upon his return did another physician discover a walnut-size tumor at the base of his tongue. A biopsy of the tumor lead to the diagnosis of a stage-four throat cancer.
Douglas immediately underwent a grueling eight-week program of chemotherapy and radiation. He was able to avoid a feeding tube but still lost 45 pounds in the process. During the radiation treatment, Douglas was too weak to move around, and stayed confined to a sofa at his home. He currently feels rejuvenated with a new lease on life and is be back at work making movies again.

                    Michael Douglas in 2011 while receiving chemotherapy and radiation

The HPV Type 16, is also known to cause cervical cancer in women. Unfortunately there no early oral screening test for HPV such as the Pap test. The lack of a screening test for oral HPV means that a doctor should be seen as soon as symptoms appear: a lump in the neck, a sore throat or ear pain that persists for two weeks.

There are currently no studies showing that vaccines to prevent cervical cancer from HPV Types 16 and 18,  also prevent HPV related oral cancer. However, these vaccines are recommend for boys and young men.

Most head and neck cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol. The overall number of cancer caused by tobacco and alcohol are decreasing, while those associated with HPV are increasing. The cancer caused by HPV generally occurs near the base of the tongue; a difficult site to see and test.  

A saliva test can detect an oral HPV infection. However it is not very helpful because 85% of individuals may be colonized with a variety of HPV types and less than 1% of individuals with HPV 16 eventually develop throat cancer.

Currently about a quarter of head and neck cancer are caused by HPV and it is associated with 80% of tonsillar cancer. About 25,000 cases a year are diagnosed in the United States, compared with 226,000 lung cancers. However, it is growing in importance as smoking-related oral cancers decline.Patients with  positive cancer associated with HPV have a lower risk of dying compared to those with HPV-negative cancer.

The growing frequency in oral sex may have contributed to the increase in cancer caused by HPV. Men are twice as likely as women to get it, and it is more common among whites than blacks. Straight men are more likely to get the cancer than gay men perhaps because there may be more HPV in vaginal fluid than on the penis.

Michael Douglas visiting Jerusalem for his son's bar-mitzva on May 20114

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Human papilloma virus (HPV) as a cause of laryngeal cancer: new treatment options.

HPV-related head and neck cancers occur mainly in the oropharynx ( tonsils and the back of the tongue ).  However, a 2013 study from China found HPV infection, especially infection due to the high-risk type HPV-16, was found to be significantly associated with the risk of laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma.

Knowing whether one’s cancer was caused by HPV may help physicians determine the patient prognosis and survival.  Head and neck cancers caused by HPV infection tend to respond better to current treatments as compared to head and neck cancers caused by tobacco or alcohol use.  There are also new treatment options available to patients whose cancers are caused by HPV . These include vaccine clinical trials and treatment protocols that use less radiation and chemotherapy. These are easier for the patient to tolerate as they may generate fewer side effects.

The only way that head and neck cancers can be evaluated for the presence of HPV is to biopsy the lesion and test it for the presence of HPV DNA.  Patients who have already completed surgery, for head and neck cancer, can find out if their cancer is HPV related if the pathology sample is still available. 

Laryngeal cancer