Study: HPV patients need more education

Patients with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) and human papillomavirus (HPV) are largely unaware of a possible link between the two conditions, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York sought to assess the gaps in knowledge and psychological needs of OPSCC patients with HPV in their study (Oral Oncology, November 2013, Vol. 49:11, pp. 1067-1071). All participants were cohabitating with a significant other and completed questionnaires about their knowledge of HPV.

While 66% of the patients included in the study were able to correctly identify their HPV status, just 35% acknowledged that they assumed HPV to be the cause of their cancer, the authors explained.

There were significant gaps in knowledge about the transmission of HPV. The majority of those included in the study informed their partner about their HPV status, but only 41% talked about the virus' transmission. More concerning, less than a quarter (23%) considered themselves to be informed about transmission risks and prevention.

Thirty-nine percent said that they would like to learn more about HPV from their oncologist; 58% have gathered information from other sources, while more than one-third said that they are interested in learning more about HPV.

Among the participants, the researchers noted "moderate" distress levels and "relatively low levels" of self-blame. The two were significantly correlated.

In light of their results, the researchers encouraged future research to create best practice guidelines.

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