Practising safe sex is one way to protect your health. Leading dental hygienist, Anna Middleton, has spotted a strong link between a sexual infection and oral cancer.
Strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has been linked to cancer.
The contagious infection can be passed on from oral sex, anal sex, penetrative sex and sharing sex toys.
“You may wonder what sex has got to do with a dentist,” said Anna, “but there is an increasing amount of evidence showcasing a link between Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancer.”
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With every person who sits in her dental chair, Anna stated she has “a duty of care” for her patients.
“I check the face, neck and lymph nodes” for any abnormalities, as well as the “outside of the lips, inside of the lips, cheeks, the top and sides of the tongue, under the tongue, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth and back of the throat,” Anna explained.
Most definitely thorough in her routine examinations, Anna will flag anything troubling to the patient and other relevant health professionals.
“There are stark facts out there about the rise of mouth cancer caused by HPV,” Anna continued.
What is HPV?
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses. There are over 100 different strains, with some causing cancer.
HPV is passed on from any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, including oral sex.
The NHS note HPV has no symptoms, so people may be unaware that they have it.
However, HPV is “very common”, with most people – men and women – being infected with it at some point in their lifetime.
It’s only the high-risk cancer-causing strains that lead to cells growing uncontrollably to form cancerous tumours.
Dental hygienists are trained to identify oral cancer, which can be caused by HPV.
In detail, Anna described what she – and other dental hygienists – would be looking for when screening for oral cancer.
Patches on the tongue
“A white or red patch inside of your mouth or on your tongue could be a potential sign of oral cancer,” Anna begun.
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“Often painless, they can easily go undetected.”
Ulcers that don’t heal
“Ulcers are painful sores that appear in the mouth,” Anna said.
“Ulcers caused by mouth cancer tend to appear on or under the tongue, but you can get them in other areas of your mouth.”
A swelling in your mouth
“Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can cause growths in your mouth,” Anna confirmed.
“It’s not painful, but once discovered, it needs to be treated and removed so it doesn’t lead to oral cancer.”
Pain when swallowing
“Pain when swelling can be a symptom of throat, or oral cancer,” Anna stated.
A lump in your throat
Otherwise known as ‘globus pharyngeus’, it’s the feeling when you’re unable to remove a lump in your throat, or it feels like something is stuck there but there is no actual obstruction.
Anna concluded: “Typically, cancer of the mouth and throat occurs in those who have risk factors such as smoking, alcohol or a history of HPV.”
Anna has urged people to get regular check-ups with a dental hygienist.
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