How Do You Find out If You Have HPV?

Types of Tests and Screenings Available to Diagnose the Human Papillomavirus

Papilloma Virus. Credit: BSIP / Contributor / Getty Images

For those wondering how you can find out if you have human papillomavirus (HPV), at the moment, there is no simple test to determine someone's “HPV status" and no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat. An HPV test is available and is normally performed on women over age 30 or to women who have had abnormal Pap smears. The test is done with a regular Pap smear. The test will identify if HPV was the cause of the abnormal Pap smear.

How to Find Out If You Have HPV

Since HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, the HPV test that most women undergo is in fact a screening for cervical cell changes that may indicate cancer. One of the best ways a woman can find out if they are infected by HPV is through a Pap smear. A pap smear is a cervical cancer screening that can detect any changes in the cervix caused by a possible HPV infection.

A Pap smear or Pap test, allows for your doctor to take a sample of cells from the cervix to be sent to a lab and examined under a microscope. Before doing a Pap smear, your gynecologist may visually exam the vagina to look for genital warts, which are a symptom of HPVGenital warts can usually be diagnosed by sight. Some people only find out they have HPV when they have a flare up of genital warts symptoms for the first time.

Because HPV infections are very common in women in their 20's and tend to clear quickly, routine HPV tests are not approved for women in this age group.

For women 30 years of age and older, HPV infections are less likely to clear on their own. An HPV test done along with a Pap smear can help to determine which women need more follow-up care.

Unfortunately most people with HPV don't know that they are infected with HPV as they never develop symptoms or health problems from the condition.

 Others may only find out they were once infected with HPV after they have developed more serious problems, such as cancers. Keep in mind that most people who have HPV never know they have it. There are hundreds of strains of the HPV virus and only a few strains are linked to cancer.

Can Men Be Screened for HPV?

Men may be able to tell if they have HPV by the appearance of genital warts on their penis, scrotum, thighs, groin, or in and around the anus. Currently, there is no medical test to find out if men are infected with the HPV virus.

The Center on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend HPV screening or routine testing for anal, penile, or throat cancers in men in the United States. However, some men with an increased risk for anal cancer (including men with HIV or men who receive anal sex) may be advised or choose to undergo anal Pap tests, under the direction of their health care provider.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Genital Warts.Accessed 27 March 2016.

Center on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet.Accessed 27 March 2016.

Center on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV and Men - Fact Sheet. Accessed 27 March 2016.

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