Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is a rare disease (there are perhaps 20,000 active cases in the U.S.). It is characterized by the growth of benign tumors in the respiratory tract caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Unlike the HPV associated with cervical cancer, these lesions can occur on the vocal cords and the patient will experience hoarseness. Although there are over 100 types of HPV viruses identified, type 6 and type 11 are the most common ones seen in RRP, but HPV 16 and HPV 18 are seen as well.
What are RRP symptoms?
The symptoms are dictated by the location of the growths. Hoarseness is a common symptom when the papillomas grow on or near the vocal cords.
Who gets RRP?
It can be seen in a person’s vocal cords from age 2 into their 80’s, and this is divided into two groups: Some patients get it before age 12 and are characterized as juvenile onset (JORRP). After age 12, one is considered to have an adult onset (AORRP).
How is RRP diagnosed?
Stroboscopy and laryngoscopy is a good way to identify lesions that may appear suspicious. Removing them and examining the tissue under the microscope is the best way to diagnosis RRP.
How is RRP treated?
Currently, there is no cure for this, but we are hopeful that the use of the HPV vaccine will bring about a reduction in the number of patients who contract this disorder. At present we can manage disease symptoms and help patients achieve a clear, functioning voice with surgery by removing these growths. Unfortunately, the growths come back, or recur.
What are the risks if they're not treated?
This depends on location again. If the growths (papillomas) are on the vocal cords, it is possible for them to block the airway and this would require urgent surgery.
What is the prognosis/outlook?
Because there is no cure yet, the prognosis is guarded. Patients can certainly live full lives, but often require repeated procedures over time to remove the growths.
If you have hoarseness or think you may have Recurrent Respiratory Papilloma (RRP), please schedule an appointment through the link below or call us at (312) 996-9583 to see our laryngologist. Dr. H. Steven Sims. We accept all forms of health insurance.