Health Plan of San Joaquin | Focus Your Health | Spring 2022

Focus Your Health 5 Did you know that smoking is not the most common cause of throat cancer? Most throat cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a group of viruses spread through people having sex. Cases are on the rise. Here are five facts you should know. 1 HPV infections can be harmless, but some can cause cancer. Most HPV infections can be fought off by the immune system. Some types of HPV can be more harmful. Over time, it’s possible for HPV to cause changes to cells that may lead to throat (oropharyngeal) cancer. HPV may also cause cancer in other areas. 2 Most throat cancers are HPV-related. HPV is responsible for about 36,000 NEW cancer diagnoses each about HPV and throat cancer year. The number of new cases is rising. 3 Throat cancer can cause noticeable symptoms. A long- lasting sore throat, hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes, earaches, painful swallowing and unexplained weight loss could be signs of throat cancer. If you notice them, let your primary care provider know. 4 HPV-related cancers can be prevented. There is an HPV vaccine that protects against HPV-related cancer. But immunization needs to happen in childhood, well before a person becomes sexually active and has contact with HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recom- mends the HPV vaccine for all 11- or 12-year-olds. Kids this age need two doses, given 6 to 12 months apart. Teens and adults 26 and under who were not vaccinated by age 12 can still be immunized. Those who get their first shot at age 15 or beyond need three doses, given over six months. Ask your child’s primary care provider when your child should be immunized. 5 Some adults may receive the HPV vaccine too. Adults over 26 have likely been exposed to HPV already, so the vaccine is less likely to be protective. However, immunization may make sense for certain adults ages 27 through 45. Talk with your doctor to decide if the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks of a new HPV infection. Additional source: National Cancer Institute 5 facts