New system helps doctors differentiate between HPV-related and smoking-related throat cancers

When Bill Klosterboer was diagnosed with a stage 3 cancer at the back of his tongue in June 2014, all he and his wife, Laurie, heard was the word “cancer.”

The stage of his disease didn’t really register, although he recalls being glad it wasn’t stage 4, the worst possible option.

“For us, personally, it was a matter of ‘OK, I’ve got cancer, let’s make a decision and get rid of it,’ ” said Klosterboer, a Lincoln resident.

Klosterboer did get rid of his cancer, an oropharyngeal, or throat, cancer associated with the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

But under a new staging system that will take effect for such cancers this time next year, his cancer would have rated quite a bit lower — stage 1, a number that would have better reflected his prognosis.

Dr. William Lydiatt, head and neck surgical oncologist at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center in Omaha, said the new staging system is important to patients, whether or not they recognize it in the rush of diagnosis and treatment, because HPV-associated throat cancer is a new and unique disease that behaves differently from the older type of throat cancer related to tobacco and alcohol use that defined the original staging for throat cancers. It’s also more treatable.

Read the full article: Omaha World-Herald​