HPV head and neck cancer increasing trend for men and women - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

HPV head and neck cancer increasing trend for men and women

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Dr. Vikas Mehta at LSU Health Shreveport with the da Vinci Si surgical robot for throat and mouth cancer. Dr. Vikas Mehta at LSU Health Shreveport with the da Vinci Si surgical robot for throat and mouth cancer.
Surgeons use these sensitive controls to operate the robot arms and surgical instruments. Surgeons use these sensitive controls to operate the robot arms and surgical instruments.
The surgical instruments sit on the robot arms and are operated by the surgeon. The surgical instruments sit on the robot arms and are operated by the surgeon.
Donny Barnes, 64, had his throat tumor removed through his mouth by robot surgery. The only scar is behind his ear along his neck where his lymph nodes were removed. Donny Barnes, 64, had his throat tumor removed through his mouth by robot surgery. The only scar is behind his ear along his neck where his lymph nodes were removed.
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

The number of cases of head and neck cancer in the United States is on the rise and you might be surprised at its source.

Doctors have noticed an increasing trend of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) mouth and throat cancers among younger non-smokers in the last decade.

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women, but is now also a major player in the cause of mouth and throat cancers in both genders. Oropharynx cancer affects the back of the throat where the tonsils and base of the tongue are located. This cancer is due to HPV.

"HPV-positive head and neck cancer will be more common than HPV positive cervical cancer by 2020," said Dr. Vikas Mehta of LSU Health. Mehta is the assistant professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at LSU Shreveport.

He said HPV-positive oropharynx cancer is happening in younger patients now and in non-smokers.

"In the last 30 years or so, we've seen a big rise, almost an epidemic rise," Mehta said.

Donny Barnes, a 64-year-old trucker from Bossier City, never cancer would happen to him. He quit smoking 24 years ago and said he's never had health issues.

"I've always been real bad about putting stuff off," he said. "If you see me going to the doctor, I'm hurting real bad or in a lot of pain."

It was snacking on some peanuts back in 2012 that got Barnes to visit a doctor.

"A couple of days later was the first time I'd noticed this little lump on the back on my throat," Barnes said. "I thought it was just a peanut lodged in the back of my throat."

That "peanut" turned out to be a cancerous tumor.

According to Mehta, Barnes' symptoms were textbook symptoms of HPV-positive oropharynx cancers. Barnes went into surgery to have the tumor removed.

Mouth and throat surgeries are extremely difficult to perform because of the small space to work in. New surgical robot technology available at the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center and University Health in Shreveport has made these surgeries easier.

"It's just extremely difficult to reach that far back into someone's mouth and this is really a game changer in that way," Mehta said.

The da Vinci surgical robot is minimally invasive and uses 5 mm instruments for fine dissection through the mouth. The surgeon controls the instruments through a 3-D machine.

"The instrument is sitting on top controls on the arm," Mehta said. "It does things exactly like your wrist would do. And you're really able to bend and get up into strange angles. Things you wouldn't be able to do otherwise, so it's very neat."

Barnes had his tonsils removed and part of the base of his tongue. His lymph nodes were also removed. The only noticeable scar runs behind his ear along his neck from where the lymph nodes were removed.

"As soon as I thought I had a peanut in the back of my throat, I should have run in, had it checked because I may have gotten off better than what I did," he said. "Although, I feel like I'm pretty lucky with the way I did get off," Barnes said.

Now doctors are encouraging men and women of all ages to get screened for head and neck cancer. With this type of cancer it's important to catch it early.

The Feist-Weiller Cancer Center is holding a free cancer screening from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday on the third floor of the Surgical Oncology Clinic. The screening is non-invasive and takes less than 10 minutes. Doctors will look for symptoms in the head and neck region.

For more information and to set up your appointment for screening call 318-675-6262.

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