Why should you get tested?
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection is very common. It usually infects the anogenital area but can infect other areas including the mouth and throat. Most sexually active people get HPV at some time in their lives, although most never know it. HPV transmits very easily and often presents no symptoms. Therefore, it’s incredibly common for people to pass it on.
High-Risk HPV is the cause of cervical cancer. It can also lead to cancer of the vagina, anus and oropharynx (back of the throat). Genital wart viruses (HPV-6 & HPV-11) cause unsightly and painful genital warts.
Not all HPV viruses behave in the same way, so it is extremely important to realize that HPV-16 in women and HPV-16 in men is particularly aggressive, even in the very young. Other high risk HPV viruses can also be aggressive.
Consider Vaginal testing if you:
- Are over the age of 25
- Are under the age of 25 and sexually active.
- Have a family history of cervical cancer.
- Have had an “abnormal” PAP test result.
- Use tobacco
- Have ever been told you are HPV positive, but are not sure which virus was detected. An HPV High Risk test with the optional full genotyping add-on will screen for all High and Low Risk HPV viruses.
IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Authoritative professional bodys that offer cervical cancer screening guidelines differ regarding the recommended earliest age for HPV testing. The FDA has, to date, approved one method for HPV Primary Screening beginning at age 25, while others (USPSTF, ACOG, ASCCP) recommend testing beginning at age 30.
Consider Penile testing if you:
- See warts, lesions or other new growths on the shaft of the penis, perineum or scrotum.
- Want to be certain of your status as a carrier.
Read More (Anal & Oral)
Consider Anal testing if you:
- Have had unprotected anal intercourse.
- Have a history of anal warts.
- Are HIV positive.
- Have experienced pre-cancerous or cancerous changes in your cervix, vulva or vagina. You may be at greater risk for an anal HPV infection because of the anatomical proximity of the anus and vagina.
Consider Oral testing if you:
- Have had intimate oral-to-genital contact with someone who may have HPV.
- Are HIV positive.
- Are positive for HPV in the cervix or anus.
To learn more about High Risk HPV, visit our Resource page.
What are the signs and symptoms of HPV?
With the High Risk types of HPV, there are no outward signs or symptoms of infection. The effects may present as abnormalities in the cells of the cervix, vulva or vagina that can lead to cancer. If these changes progress, symptoms can include:
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain or bleeding during intercourse
For women, genital warts appear as skin-colored or pink growths most commonly seen on the opening of the vagina, the cervix or around the anus. Genital Warts are more common in women than in men. Most women with warts do not have any symptoms at all, but in some cases, there may be itching, burning or tenderness in the genital area.
- New skin-color or pink growths on the surface of the penis
For men, genital warts appear as skin-colored or pink growths most commonly seen on the shaft of a circumcised penis, under the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis or on the scrotum. Most men with warts do not have any symptoms at all, but in some cases, there may be itching, burning or tenderness.
Read More (Anal & Oral)
- Rectal bleeding
- Anal discomfort
- Abnormal changes of the cells in the anus
Anal warts caused by HPV are often referred to as “condylomas.” While found predominantly in people who have had receptive anal intercourse, they can also occur in men and women who do not have a history of anal sexual contact. Many patients with anal warts have no symptoms. Some may notice small growths in the anal area or may experience itching, occasional bleeding or moisture in the anal canal.
- Mass (lump) in the side of the neck
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Chronic acid reflux
- Numbness or difficulty moving the jaw
- Pain in the throat
Concerned about having genital warts caused by the low risk types of HPV? Add the optional Full Genotyping to your HPV test. Read more about genital warts and low risk HPV in the Resource section. You can also read more about the High Risk types of HPV in our Resource Section.
What happens if your test is positive?
Due to the high prevalence of HPV, all sexually active adults are likely to contract an infection at some point in their life. A positive test does not mean that you have cancer, nor does it indicate that you will ever get cancer.
It is important to identify a persistent (detected twice within a year) HPV infection and visit a healthcare provider for a thorough exam to ensure the abnormalities that HPV can cause have not already occurred.
There is no current cure for HPV, but there are ways to manage and treat the negative effects of the virus. You can also retest at a future time to see if the virus is still present.
If you smoke and are positive for HPV: The cancer-causing effects of an HPV infection at any body site may be enhanced.
Read More (Testing Negative)
What should a person know about testing negative for HPV?
If the specimen that you provided to SelfCollect tests negative for HPV, it is likely that you are not currently infected with HPV. However, continual sexual exposure makes periodic or frequent testing an important part of your health maintenance. It is also important to realize that, although rare, it is possible for tests to be negative because of sampling error or other technical complexities.
Although you are negative for HPV today, your status may change with new sexual partners or other physical experiences. HPV is also a virus that can sit “dormant” in your body and remain undetectable. We don’t know why, but these viruses occasionally begin dividing again and become detectable.
If the same virus is present over time and remains detectable and persistent, then it is important to give serious consideration to seeing a physician or health care provider. If you are sexually active, you may greatly benefit from regular HPV testing