Researchers say HPV is behind increased rates of throat cancer in men
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Jeff Husney always thought he was the picture of health.
He never smoked, hardly drank, watched his diet and exercised.
So when the lump he found on his neck turned out to be cancer, he was more than surprised, but he learned that he's not alone.
In the last decade, oncologists have noted an increase in oropharyngeal cancers, especially in healthy, non-smoking, men.
Typically, there are about 7,000 cases diagnosed a year, but the number is rising and 70 percent of them have a common link: the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.
It's perhaps the most common sexually transmitted disease affecting about 20 million Americans.
In women, it's linked to cervical cancer but men have a higher risk of developing cancer of the tonsil and tongue.
The good news, according to Cleveland Clinic oncologist Brian Burkey, is that HPV throat cancers are typically 90 percent curable, regardless of stage.
But there may be a way to prevent it too.
Gardasil is a vaccine that was approved several years ago for young girls to prevent HPV infection.
Now the Centers for Disease Control are recommending the vaccine for boys, ages nine to twenty-six.
Jeff is encouraging his own sons to consider the vaccine because he remembers how difficult treatment was for him.
He couldn't eat, talk or swallow and needed a feeding tube to get his nutrients.
He's still careful of the types of foods he eats and keeps a clean diet, that often includes healthy smoothies.
Signs of head and neck cancers include weight loss, unexplained hoarseness, a sore throat that lasts more than two weeks, coughing up blood and a lump in the neck.