Men, could you be living with HPV?

Men's Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Jun 27, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control report that approximately 85% of Americans will have some form of human papillomavirus (HPV) in their system during their lifetime. Many of those infected with the virus will never know they have it, while others may develop serious health problems.

In many cases, men are not aware of the infection and therefore, unknowingly pass it through sexual intercourse. HPV is passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal or anal sex, but can also be passed through oral sex. The odds of spreading it increase with casual sex practices or multiple sex partners.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent the spread of the virus, as even condoms and other devices are not fully protective. Most HPV viruses are found in the scrotal area of the male, not on the penis. Therefore, even a person with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV if their partner was infected with the virus from a prior sexual partner.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re worried about HPV.

Symptoms of HPV

Unfortunately, there is no test for a man to check his overall HPV status. Many times, men only become aware of the infection after a secondary problem develops. The most common symptom is genital warts—a raised, flat, cauliflower-looking lesion on the penis, testicles, groin or thighs—which can be frozen off with cryotherapy.

However, most men are asymptomatic, meaning they will never develop symptoms. This makes the virus even more dangerous because it can lead to certain types of cancers.

There is an HPV vaccine, which is recommended for all boys and girls around age 11 or 12. If you did not get vaccinated as a child, you can still receive the HPV vaccine up until age 21, according to the CDC guidelines.

Cancers caused by HPV

There are several types of cancers that HPV can cause in men. Here are a few warning signs of anal cancer, penile cancer and head or neck cancer to look for.

Anal cancer

  • Bleeding, pain, itching and discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin area
  • A change in the bowel habit or shape of the stool

Penile cancer

  • Change in color
  • Skin thickening
  • Development or a mass of tissue on the penis
  • Late stages: a growth or sore on the penis

Head or neck cancers

  • Constant sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Constant coughing
  • Pain or trouble swallowing or breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Lump or mass in the neck

Do you have questions or concerns about HPV? Find a doctor to partner with you toward better health.

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