The IRON MAIDEN singer, who had a golf gall-size tumor on his tongue and another in the lymph node on the right side of his neck, has stated in the past that it might have been caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).
Dickinson, who got the all-clear in May 2015 after radiation and nine weeks of chemotherapy, didn’t specifically blame his cancer on oral sex but acknowledged that HPV is considered to be something of a social blemish, with many people still uncomfortable talking about sexually transmitted viruses and oral sex.
“It’s silly why there’s such a stigma about it,” Dickinson told Finland’s Syöpäjärjestöt in a new interview (see video below). “Because if [someone asked you], ‘What cancer did you get?’ if you said, ‘I’ve got squamous cell carcinoma,’ people go, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ And you say, ‘It’s cervical cancer.’ ‘Oh, it’s the same thing.’ ‘Yup. So I’ve got cervical cancer of the throat.’ There you go. ‘Cause the cells are the same.”
He continued: “If a woman gets cervical cancer — which is a terrible thing — but if a woman did get cervical cancer, nobody goes around saying, ‘Aha! It’s because you are a woman and you are a bad person,’ or, ‘You were naughty,’ or, ‘You are having sex.’ Duh! It’s what people do. Otherwise the human race would be extinct. So it’s kind of hypocritical of the press — certain elements in the press — to go on about it. They’re like kind of pathetic schoolboys. ‘Oral sex? Uhhh.’ It’s pathetic. Probably 80 percent of the human race has been exposed to human papillomavirus. And what everybody should be doing is saying, how can we find out more about why, first of all, it can cause cancers in some people and not in others?; why in men over 40 suddenly there’s an epidemic; and why there’s no test in men — simple, easy test, like the smear test in women.”
According to Bruce, throat cancer has a high survival rate, and those diagnosed can continue treatment to prolong their life and slow the progression of the disease.
“Almost a hundred percent, I would say, of throat cancers in guys aged over 40 are HPV,” he said. “And the good news is it’s very treatable. The good news is it’s almost a different disease to any other kind of throat cancer, or even any other kind of cancer — it’s really specific. The bad news is by the time you get diagnosed, it’s probably Stage 3 and you went in to the doctor because you had a lump in your lymph node, and so it’s already spread a little bit. But that’s kind of almost everybody — almost everybody.”
He continued: “As my oncologist said to me… ‘Cause I went on Google and researched everything. It was, like, ‘Ahhh! My God! It’s Stage 3! Next thing is Stage 4 and then it’s a coffin.’ And he went, ‘Calm down. It’s an academic way of classifying cancers.’ He said, ‘Honestly, I’d rather have Stage 3 of your cancer than Stage 1 of lung cancer.’ And I went, ‘Oh, okay.’ I mean, my father died of lung cancer, and it wasn’t very pleasant in his last days, although he was still up and about and functioning up to the last two or three days, really.
“The advances now, particularly in something like cancer, are incredible in terms of gene therapies and specific therapies now. So, I think, over the course of the next five to 10 years, the advances are going to be immense for those difficult-to-treat cancers.”
Bruce previously told iNews that he wanted to cover his cancer battle in his 2017 autiobiography, “What Does This Button Do?”, to raise awareness of the condition, which affects people who often have no or minimal history of tobacco or alcohol abuse. The individuals with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer who undergo treatment have a disease-free survival rate of 85 to 90 percent over five years.
While most strains of HPV clear up on their own, the sexually transmitted virus is responsible for an array of cancers.
The Huffington Post reported in 2013 that oral sex is an avenue through which a person can contract HPV and especially the strains HPV-18 and HPV-16, the latter of which is responsible for half of oral cancer cases, according to the National Cancer Institute. HPV-16, HPV-18 and some less-common strains can also cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus and penis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and approximately 14 million people become newly infected each year, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection in the nation.