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Head and neck cancers growing, says Northwick Park surgeon

Bhavia Visavadia
Bhavia Visavadia

A surgeon in North WestLondon is reporting a rise in the number of patients with head and neck cancer as part of Make Sense,anational awareness week.

The condition - traditionally been associated with older men who are heavy drinkers and smokers - is increasingly affecting younger males in their 40s and 50s.

Mr Bhavin Visavadia, a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at Northwick Park Hospital, said: “There has been a noticeable increase in recent years and oropharyngeal cancer can be triggered by contracting the Human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a common cause of cervical cancer in women.

“Oral sex is the obvious candidate for transmission to men as the virus is found in the female cervix.”

Research in Annals of Oncology showed 15% of men who smoked and had five or more oral sex partners were most likely to get HPV, while seven per cent of men who smoke and have had two to four oral sex partners contract the infection

The lowest risk group were those who had one or no oral sex partners in their lifetimes, with only 1.5 per cent of them getting an oral HPV infection. This rises to four per cent among non-smokers with two to four oral sex partners.

Mr Visavadia added: “Women are routinely immunised against HPV for cervical cancer but recent legislative changes will now see men receive a jab as well to prevent HPV related head and neck cancer.”

Northwick Park Hospital, which is the regional centre of excellence for head and neck cancer surgery and reconstruction, carries out more than 200 procedures a year.

The British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists is using the Make Sense campaign to raise awareness of the fact that head and neck cancer is now the seventh most common type of cancer in Europe.

It is about half as common as lung cancer, but twice as common as cervical cancer. There were approximately 140,000 new patients diagnosed in Europe in 2014.