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Can HPV Cause Head and Neck Cancer?

Yes, human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause head and neck (H&N) cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer, a type of H&N cancer that refers to malignancies specific to the oropharynx—which includes the base of the tongue, the soft palate, the tonsils and the side and back walls of the throat—is actually the most common malignancy caused by HPV in the United States. Some of the most common symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer include throat soreness, pain when swallowing, hoarseness, a lump in the back of the mouth or throat, swelling within the lymph nodes, difficulty opening the mouth and moving the tongue, earaches and unexplained weight loss.

The importance of receiving an HPV vaccination

Although you should certainly consult with your primary care physician for advice tailored to your specific condition, an HPV vaccination is often recommended, especially for individuals 26 and younger. Not only will this vaccine help protect you from HPV itself, but it will also lower your risk of developing the various types of cancer caused by HPV. Indeed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted accelerated approval for Gardasil 9—the HPV vaccine manufactured by Merck—to be used for the prevention of certain head and neck cancers.

The team to choose for oropharyngeal cancer treatment

If you’re concerned that you might have oropharyngeal cancer, you can feel confident placing your care into the hands of the specialists at Moffitt Cancer Center. We provide a wide array of treatment options for individuals diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, including some that are available only through clinical trials. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online to request an appointment.