I'm an oral cancer survivor that doesn't fit the "normal" oral cancer profile. I'm always asked if I was a smoker. No, I've never smoked, but I was subjected to many years of secondhand smoke as a child. I am not a heavy drinker. More so when I was younger, but even then 2 or 3 drinks a week and now maybe monthly. I haven't knowingly subjected myself to carcinogens, but then there is the debate with plastic water bottles, charred red meats, and microwave foods including popcorn, etc. There could be some possibilities there, but none of those have enough evidence behind them yet. No matter...I don't fit the profile of an oral cancer patient.
After my surgery at MD Anderson, while sitting in a waiting room, a nurse asked if I would answer some questions for a new study they were conducting. It got rather personal as she began to ask about my sex life and "oral" habits. At that time I was told they were conducting studies to show that HPV (Human Papillomavirus) might be the cause of some oral cancers. They were beginning to see a lot of new patients like myself that didn't fit the typical profile. They also noticed that patients were much younger than they normally see.
For years, ever since I learned of the connection with oral cancer to HPV, I have wanted to write a blog especially for younger people and those that participate in oral sex. Let's just estimate...MOST OF THEM! It's something that MUST be talked about, but is such a sensitive subject. How do you explain that if you have oral sex with a person that has the HPV virus and then kiss during lovemaking, that it is possible to transfer the virus to the oral cavity which could lead to oral cancer? And that person might not even know they carry the virus! HUM...I guess I just did...Well then, years of pondering resolved. That wasn't so hard afterall.
When I try to explain it delicately in public, which I try as often as I can...I usually say, "If you play in the basement and then go play in the attic, you can transfer the HPV virus to the oral cavity." OR "If you travel down South and then return to the North..." Occasionally I get the head tilt and I have to give a more graphic explanation.
Even Michael Douglas can't seem to give the full impact as he eludes to it as a "very common virus, one responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers" that may be responsible, but doesn't touch on how it's transferred. I wish this PSA was shown more often so people can lean. AND I wish people today still didn't have such a hangup about talking to your children about sex when such important life threatening information needs to be passed along. This would be a great time to explain the importance of safe sex practices and the usage of a dental dam.
TALK ABOUT IT PEOPLE!! ORAL SEX + MAKING OUT (could) = ORAL CANCER
GET SCREENED NOW!!Peace B