Is there an HPV test for men?

Doctor's advice / Sanitas Medical Center

Is there an HPV test for men?

The human papillomavirus is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases around the world, with the CDC stating that about 2 out of 5 people carry the virus.

What is HPV?
Known as human papillomavirus (HPV), it is a virus that is spread from one person to another either through sexual intercourse or through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. 

Therefore, it is most prevalent in sexually active people between the ages of 15-59 years but can occur at any age if exposed.

It can generally infect the vagina, penis, and anus, but also the throat, and even the skin of the hands, feet, and chest.

Mainly, people infected with HPV are self-limited, which means that the body's immune system eliminates it in a period of 6 months to 2 years. HPV in men is eliminated faster than in women.

What are the symptoms of an HPV infection?

There are many types of HPV, but they can be grouped into 2 categories:

  • Low risk are types of HPV that do not lead to cancer but cause genital warts or even skin warts (these warts can be flat, raised, sessile, cauliflower-shaped, large, small, single, or in groups)
  • High risk are the types of HPV that lead to some types of cancer – the most common being cervical cancer in women. However, they also lead to HPV-related cancers such as throat, penis, and anal cancer.

In the vast majority of infection cases, patients are completely asymptomatic, and this can be for weeks, months, or years.

Consider that it is very difficult to know exactly when you got the infection, since the virus can be “asleep” in the body for years and due to some alteration of your immune system, it becomes manifest.

Is there a way to know that I have an HPV infection?

In women, there is something called Co-testing, which is when at the same time as the pap test a sample is taken from the cervix to detect HPV. 

If it is positive, closer surveillance is done because in most cases the body itself eliminates the infection, if a woman after a certain time that her doctor dictates do not improve, what is done is to extract the infected cells to prevent the spread of cervical cancer.

However, in men, there is no approved screening by the FDA.

Since hypothetically the infection was discovered in a man, the method would be to wait for the body to resolve it on its own. Therefore, it does not change the evolution of the infection. 

In some cases, an anal pap smear in men may be conducted when an HPV infection is suspected. You can contact your primary care provider to ask if this test applies to your personal situation. 

At Sanitas, we have plenty of trained professionals who will help you obtain the screening tests you need to stay healthy. 

If you have any of these symptoms on the penis, scrotum, anus, mouth, or throat, schedule an appointment today to speak with a Sanitas doctor to get the care you need:

  • Lesions such as warts
  • Abnormal growing’s
  • Abnormal nodules
  • Or difficult to treat pain

To contextualize, these are some numbers (Fact sheet) provided by the American Association for Sexual Health:

  • 4 out of 10 cases of HPV cancer occur in men
  • Each year HPV causes around 13,000 cases of cancer in men, including 10,000 throat cancers, 2,000 anal cancers, and 800 penis cancers.

Is there protection against HPV infection?

Yes! Prevention is the key. There are 2 ways to do it:

  1. Use of a condom, unfortunately, is not 100% effective because, as we mentioned before, the transmission of the disease can be done through skin-to-skin contact, so the skin that is not protected by the condom will have a risk of being infected. However, condom usecan  not only prevent HPV infection but also countless other sexually transmitted infections.
  2. HPV Vaccine and the younger the better! The FDA has approved vaccination for men and women between 11 and 12 years of age, but it can also be done in men up to 21 years and in women up to 26 years or even later depending on the situation. Although the effectiveness of it will decrease significantly with the passing of years and years of exposure to the virus. In other words, the greater the number of sexual partners, the higher the risk of contracting the infection. It should be noted that vaccination will be more effective in people who have not had contact with the virus, and it can protect against both low-risk and high-risk types of HPV. 

How does HPV vaccination work?

If you receive your first shot before reaching your 15th birthday, you only need 2 doses to complete the series. 

However, if you get your first shot at the age of 15 or older you need 3 doses to complete the series. 

If my partner was diagnosed with HPV, should I be checked out? 

This will depend on whether you are a man or a woman. If you are a woman and your partner was diagnosed with HPV infection, it is important that you perform the Co-test to carry out closer surveillance and reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.

But if you are a man and your partner has been diagnosed with HPV, you should be aware if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. If you do, you should consult your primary care provider. Otherwise do not panic, remember that your body can eliminate the virus within 6 months to 2 years.

It is also highly probable that if there is monogamy, the chances of becoming infected decrease since even if one of the 2 is infected, as most of the virus resolves itself over a period of time, it will generate antibodies for the specific type that the couple has. However, this does not mean that it makes antibodies to the other types of viruses to which it has not been exposed. Another measure that almost guarantees not getting infected is abstinence, but we know that in most cases this is a bit difficult to do. 

In the end, early detection saves lives. If you or your partner are experiencing HPV symptoms, contact your Sanitas care team and schedule an appointment today.