Erin McMenamin, MSN, Radiation Oncology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the prognosis for patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
HPV-positive head and neck tumors generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative tumors. HPV-positive patients that are non-smokers or have smoked less than 10 year with low nodal involvement are at low-risk of recurrence. However, those that are HPV-positive, smoke, and have high nodal involvement are at high-risk of recurrence.
Patients with HPV-negative head and neck cancer are generally high-risk patients, since this form of cancer is commonly a direct result of smoking, which alters the histology of the oral cavity making it more susceptible to recurrence or other primary tumors. The lowest risk level an HPV-negative tumor is able to achieve is intermediate, for T1 or T2 sized tumors.