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Thoughts on the relationship between oral sex and cancer?

My wife and I have been together a little over 20 years, and married nearly 19 years. We used to perform oral sex on each other...until she saw some article or whatever about some link between oral sex and throat cancer, or something. I think it's somehow or another related to HPV. Now we don't.

We're in a monogamous relationship, as I said. How much harm is there, really, in doing oral sex in a 20 year long monogamous relationship? Personally, I'd like to go back to doing so.
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As far as I know she doesn't read things about health stuff and internalize it. She just doesn't seem to take care of herself. I go to the doctor at least once per year, but that's a specialist. I'm going to go to a regular doctor next year, too.

Her dad died when she was in her mid-teens, I think.

I don't think she fears the doctor. I think she fears diagnoses of any type, really. I don't know.
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Well, fearing a diagnosis is a big thing, and would put her off from going to the doctor, probably.

It's irrational, though, because not going to the doctor doesn't make her not have something. If I'm afraid of having breast cancer, not getting a mammogram doesn't mean I don't have breast cancer. It means I don't find it early and the cancer gets worse. Fears aren't often rational, though.

Would she go to marriage counseling with you? Her fears are affecting you, affecting your sex life, and the chances that either of you would get oral cancer from HPV are really low. Her not taking care of herself also affects you, and your kids, if you have them.

I'm sorry this is happening. I wish you both the best.
207091 tn?1337709493
Yes, oral cancer can be linked to HPV. It's also linked to heavy drinking and smoking.

It's also really uncommon. From the American Cancer Society:

"The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States for 2022 are:

About 54,000 new cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
About 11, 230 deaths from oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer."


Statistics are similar in other developed countries. Considering that there are 332 million people in the US, it's an uncommon cancer.

If you've been monogamous for that long, any HPV you had prior to your relationship is gone. If you had it, and it leads to cancer, that's already going to happen. If she is that concerned, she should make an appt with her doctor and get an exam to look for any changes.

In your situation particularly, oral sex isn't a real risk factor. If you were single or non-monogamous, I'd advise otherwise.

Is she usually a health-anxious person? Risk-averse? Has she had any abnormal pap smears? Is there anything to indicate she's had HPV?

If she's been an active and willing participant in oral sex thus far, and seemed to enjoy it, I'd suggest some therapy and an exam with her doctor.
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Thanks for your reply. I'm not quite sure what you mean by "health-anxious" person. I think the last time she actually went to a doctor was probably close to a decade or so ago, and that was for some asthma thing she was dealing with. I think she's risk-averse with some things. I think she enjoyed it when we used to do it. It's probably been at least a decade or so since we've had oral sex, if I'm remembering right. And neither of us drinks heavily or smokes. I might have one drink a week, and then on special occasions (birthday, anniversary, things like that).

We think she's in the throes of perimenopause right now (she's 6-ish years older than I am, I'm 46, she's 52), so I think there are some sensitivities going on there also. And she apparently has fibroids that bother her. I've tried asking her to go to the doctor to get checked out, but I can't make her.
Health anxious - does she get worried about health things easily? Does she often read things about health stuff and then internalize it? Is she germ-phobic? Does she fear cancer?

Does she fear the doctor? Or getting a diagnosis?

If she's 52, she should be getting mammograms. Is she?

No, you can't make her go, but you can stress that you want her around for a long, long time and hope that she goes and takes care of herself. You can model that behavior and go yourself, if you haven't. It's time for you to get some testing, too.

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