Human papillomavirus–associated oropharyngeal cancer: review of current evidence and management

E. L. You, M. Henry, A. G. Zeitouni


Oropharyngeal cancer (opc) has become the leading site for human papillomavirus (hpv)–associated cancers in humans. It is an epidemic that remains relatively unfamiliar to most physicians, potentially delaying diagnosis and treatment. Traditionally, cancers involving the head and neck have occurred in smokers and in those with a significant alcohol history. Typically, hpv-positive opc presents in a younger, healthier population with a different set of risk factors and good prognosis for survival. However, many head-and-neck cancer patients, including those with hpv-positive disease, develop lifelong disabilities because of the morbid nature of their treatments, and those patients have the highest level of unmet needs in studies spanning cancer sites.

    Knowledge of this epidemic, a high index of suspicion, and an understanding of how the tumours present in clinical practice can help physicians to make an early diagnosis, thus sparing the patient significant morbidity from treatments associated with more advanced disease stages. Furthermore, recognizing that these patients have distinct psychosocial needs and implementing a collaborative team approach is critical to providing optimal care and improving quality of life in the survivorship period.


Human papillomavirus; oropharyngeal cancer; prognosis; survivorship; treatment; vaccines

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)