Detecting HPV in Men

HPV is so common that nearly all men will be infected with at least one type of the virus at some point in their lives. Since there isn’t a male HPV test, how do men find out they have HPV? Learn more about how to detect the HPV virus in men.

How Men Find Out They Have HPV

Unfortunately, there’s no HPV test for men. There’s an approved test for women, however, so men who are having sex with a woman who is diagnosed with HPV can assume there is a good chance they also have the virus. Even if you are vaccinated for HPV and use condoms during sex, there’s still a chance that you could become infected with a type of HPV that the vaccine does not protect against.

HPV Symptoms in Men

There are no HPV male symptoms with the majority of infections. In fact, the body’s immune system usually suppresses the virus on its own. In these cases, men usually don’t realize they have HPV or had it previously because there were no noticeable changes to their body or overall health.

How Does HPV Affect Men?

Warts are the only clear sign of HPV in men. Some types of HPV can lead to the development of genital, anal, or oral warts. These warts are small bumps that appear individually or in groupings. Depending on what HPV type you have, the warts may be flat or raised. Usually, the warts go away on their own. If they don’t, you can see a dermatologist to pursue medical or surgical treatments.

Certain cancers may also be caused by an HPV infection. Though HPV-related cancers are not common in men, some strains have been linked to cancers of the penis, anus, and oropharynx (the back of the throat). There are no screenings available for penile or oropharyngeal cancer. Anal cancer screenings are available but not routinely administered. However, people with an increased risk of anal cancer, including gay, bisexual, and HIV-positive men, can talk to their doctor about scheduling these screenings.

Men can also watch for the following symptoms of HPV-related cancers:

  • Anal cancer
    • Anal bleeding, pain, itching, or discharge
    • Changes in stool shape or bowel habits
    • Swollen lymph nodes near the anus or groin
  • Penile cancer
    • Changes in penis color or skin thickness
    • Growths or sores on the penis
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
    • Persistent sore throat
    • Constant coughing
    • Hoarseness or voice changes
    • Lumps or masses in the neck
    • Pain or difficulty swallowing
    • Unexplained weight loss

Protect yourself by getting vaccinated for HPV and practicing safe sex. Although it’s hard to prevent HPV infections entirely, you can reduce your risk with these steps. In addition, watch for any symptoms that may be related to a condition caused by HPV.

Sources
  1. About HPV: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019 
  2. HPV and Men – CDC Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012 
  3. HPV and Men – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016 
  4. HPV and Cancer: National Cancer Institute, 2019