While it has long been known that HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, cancer risk in men has not really been in the spot light. Few HPV awareness campaigns have been directed towards men. Also, there has not been much in the way of HPV testing offered to men except for a basic exam to look for obvious signs of HPV genital warts.
In my opinion, HPV in men has not been given adequate attention. As a nurse practitioner with a specialty in OB/GYN, urology and STDs I can tell you that men are concerned about HPV. Here at Progressive Health Services in San Diego, male patients frequently ask for HPV testing.
HPV Testing Options for Men
HPV DNA tests are now available to look for high and low risk HPV of the throat and anal/rectal area. Like HPV DNA testing in Pap smears, throat and anal/rectal HPV DNA tests look for high-risk strains known to cause cancers as well as low-risk strains not associated with cancers. Both high and low risk HPV are contagious and can be sexually transmitted. Progressive Health Services offers the following HPV tests for men:
HPV DNA Throat Test called the Oral Risk HPV test, by Oral DNA Labs. This painless test looks for high and low risk HPV using cells from the throat collected by gargling with a mild salt water or saline solution. The gargle is spit into a test tube and sent to the lab.
HPV DNA Anal/Rectal Test This test is collected using a gentle swab of the anus and rectum. The test looks for both high and low risk HPV. While this test has been particularly helpful for Gay and Bisexual men it is useful for anyone who engages in any type of anal sex.
HPV Acetic Acid Test of the Penis This painless screening test looks for signs of HPV genital warts on the penis. It is done by applying acetic acid (vinegar) to the skin which helps make some strains of HPV easier to spot with a magnifying light or colposcopy.
During a male physical examination, clinicians can sometimes see HPV genital warts just inside the opening of the urethra of the penis (the urethra being where the urine comes out). However, strains of HPV that cause cancer tend to not be visible to the naked eye.
Interestingly research studies have been successful in identified high and low risk HPV of the penis using a gentle swab test to look for HPV DNA. However, no such test is currently available to the public because the FDA has not yet approved this type of testing. We hope such approval will happen in the not too distant future.
HPV Treatment and Prevention Options
There are a number of options for HPV treatment in men and women including freezing HPV genital warts with liquid nitrogen and applying BCA or TCA (Bi or Trichloroacetic acid) to HPV genital warts. Progressive Health Services offers these and a variety of other treatments for HPV including conventional treatments as well as alternative health care options not available at most health care facilities.
Some clinicians believe that because HPV can become undetectable without treatment (with in about 2 years time), and because there is no cure, there is no need to treat HPV because it may go away on it’s own. Just use condoms in the meantime.
I strongly disagree. While you are waiting for HPV to, maybe, clear up on it’s own you are still contagious and can transmit HPV through vaginal, anal and oral sex. Even If there are no symptoms, HPV it is still in the body. Outbreaks of HPV can reoccur, without symptoms. Additionally, ALL strains of HPV, which includes all warts, are contagious and can be transmitted during an outbreak whether there are symptoms or not. HPV treatment and follow up testing, as well as Safer Sex practices, are very important in helping to prevent transmission and protect health.
Because of concerns surrounding HPV cancers in men, the HPV vaccine has now been approved for use in males as well as females in an effort to reduce the 2 most common high risk-types of HPV (there are at least 15 high-risk strains known to cause cancer). There is a great deal of debate, and strong opinions, both pro and con, on this subject, which will be addressed in a future article and blog.
We know that nonsmoking women with high risk HPV of the cervix are less likely to develop cervical cancer. The same is undoubtedly true in men. Michael Douglas was a smoker. If you do test positive for a high-risk strain of HPV, a proactive cancer prevention oriented diet and lifestyle may go a long way on helping to prevent the development of HPV related cancers. This, too, will be the subject of a future article and blog.
In the mean time, as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Safer Sex and a healthy diet and lifestyle are worth it.