HPV and Oral Cancer - Signs and Symptoms

Posted by Sarah Schuman, MS, CCC-SLP on 2/12/2018 to General Medical and Dental Information
HPV and Oral Cancer 

In the USA, HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted virus. 9 of the nearly 200 strains of HPV cause cancers. HPV, primarily HPV16, is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer affecting males and females and is associated with oral, cervical, anal and penile cancers. More males than females develop oropharyngeal cancers. It is spread through skin to skin genital contact as well as through oral sex. 

Best screening for HPV related oral cancer is by a medical or dental professional. Keep up with your visits and don’t be afraid to ask questions! These professionals may do a visual and tactile exam as well as taking an oral history regarding signs and symptoms. 


Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms: 
This list considers both oral cancers from HPV and those from tobacco and alcohol.

• An ulcer or sore that does not heal within 2-3 weeks 
• A red, white, or black discoloration on the soft tissues in the mouth 
• Difficult or painful swallowing. A sensation that things are sticking in the throat when swallowing 
• A swollen but painless tonsil. When looking in the mouth, tonsils on both sides should be symmetrical in size 
• Pain when chewing 
• A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice 
• A swelling or lump in the mouth 
• A painless lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been there for at least two weeks. 
• A numb feeling in the mouth or lips 
• Constant coughing • An ear ache on one side (unilateral) which persists for more than a few days. 


There are two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, that protect against strains HPV16 and HPV18 (cause cervical cancers). Gardasil also protects against strains HPV6 and HPV11 (cause genital warts). Vaccinations are recommended for children (both girls and boys) 11-26 years. Vaccination at pre-sexual ages provides the most protection.

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