What you need to know about oral cancer and human papilloma virus

The Comox Valley Dental Hygiene Society is offering Free Oral Cancer Screenings to the public May 2

The Comox Valley Dental Hygiene Society is offering Free Oral Cancer Screenings to the public May 2, 2015 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in Courtenay and Campbell River.

Dr. Paul Helpard is providing the society with a clinical setting at Shoreline Orthodontics in both communities – in Courtenay at 1520 Cliffe Ave, Suite 100 and in Campbell River at 520 2nd Ave, Suite 200.

Funding for this project is provided by the Comox Valley Dental Hygiene Society and a grant from the British Columbia Dental Hygienists’ Association.

There are two distinct pathways by which people tend to be diagnosed with oral cancer. One is through the use of tobacco and alcohol, which is the long-term historic problem and cause. The other is through exposure to HPV – Human Papilloma Virus – which is the most commonly transmitted sexual virus in the U.S. and likely the world. HPV oral cancers and tobacco/alcohol oral cancer produce very different signs and symptoms and the treatment for each type of cancer is different as well.

HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers (the area at the back of your mouth/throat and the base of you tongue). There are nearly 200 strains of HPV.

HPV #16 is the version most responsible for oropharyngeal cancers affecting males and females. Incidentally HPV # 16 is also responsible for 95 per cent of cervical cancers in women. Most at risk for oropharyngeal cancers are white, non-smoking males in their 30-40s, four to one over females; the reason for this is poorly understood.


HPV Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms may include:

  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Persistent sore throat or hoarse voice
  • A painless lump felt on the out side of the neck which has been present for more than two weeks
  • An ear ache on one side (unilateral) which persists for more than a few days


Tobacco/Alcohol signs and symptoms (which may also be advanced signs of an HPV cancer) may include:

  • An ulcer or sore in the mouth that does not heal within 2-3 weeks
  • Swelling or lump in the mouth
  • A numb feeling in the mouth or lips with no known explanation
  • White or red patch on the tongue or soft tissues of the mouth


Having regular oral cancer screenings is key to early detection of possible problems. These can be performed by a medical doctor, dentist, or dental hygienist.

Who should be screened?

All adults, especially if you don’t see an MD or dentist regularly. Screenings are quick, easy and painless; further information about Oral Cancer, HPV and Smoking cessation will be provided at the screenings.

To book an appointment time, contact Monica at cvdhsociety@gmail.com or 250-334-0669. Drop-ins welcome.


Information for this article was sourced from the Oral Cancer Foundation (USA).