About one in 14 Americans carries a sexually transmitted virus in their mouths and throats that can spread to other people and cause head and neck cancers. This surprising statistic came out in the Journal of the American Medical Association this year as part of a groundbreaking study about the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

But a growing number of these cancers are being traced to HPV. For example, the incidence of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer has increased in the past two decades, especially among men. The National Cancer Institute estimates that by 2020, HPV will cause more oropharyngeal cancers than cervical cancers in the U.S.

Oropharynx cancer affects the back part of the mouth and tonsils down to the middle part of the throat. About 8,000 people die from it every year.

The most common type of HPV found in people’s mouths, according to the study, is HPV-16, a strain that is especially likely to cause cancer. Researchers estimated that 2.13 million Americans have oral HPV-16. Men are more likely to have the infection — 10.1 percent of men tested positive for it versus 3.6 percent of women.

The most common risk factors for head and neck cancers are alcohol and tobacco use. It is estimated that 75 percent of head and neck cancers are alcohol or tobacco related. However, recently there has been an increased amount of head and neck cancers related to HPV (human papillomavirus).

Facts About Head and Neck Cancer

  • With early detection, head and neck cancers are highly curable
  • More than 30,000 new cases of mouth and throat cancer are diagnosed annually
  • Head and neck cancers are more common in men
  • Preventative risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of getting oral cancer include smoking or chewing tobacco, excessive use of alcohol  and poor dental hygiene


There are five main types of head and neck cancer, named after the area in which they originate. Often, they begin inside the mouth, nose or throat. They also can begin in the salivary glands, but this is rare. Cancers in certain parts of the head and neck, such as the brain, eyes, esophagus, skin, muscles and bones, are not generally categorized as head and neck cancers.

The most common risk factors for head and neck cancers are alcohol and tobacco use. However, recently there has been an increased number of cases related to HPV (human papillomavirus).

When diagnosing this cancer, doctors must determine its stage to recommend an appropriate treatment. Cancer is considered to be early or advanced depending on the size of the tumor, the degree to which nearby lymph nodes are affected, and whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Like most cancers, the sooner head and neck cancers are detected, the better as there are more treatment options that are more effective.

Services and Treatments

There are many treatments for head and neck cancer, and your physician will help you choose the best one depending on the size of your cancer tumor, whether or not it has spread to other parts of your body, your age and your general health.

Adena’s team of cancer specialists prefers minimally invasive treatments whenever possible, allowing patients to maintain more speech and swallowing function. Our goal is to help patients emerge from treatment with the best quality of life possible.

Head and neck cancer treatments can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery or a combination of treatments:



Related Specialties

Head & Neck Cancer

About 50,000 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancers every year, and can involve the lips, mouth, tongue, throat and voice box.

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