Men: Could You Be Living With HPV?
Find Out How Prevalent It Is And How You Can Protect Yourself And Your Partner
The Centers for Disease Control report that approximately 85 percent of Americans will have some form of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in their system during their lifetime. And many of those infected with the virus will never know they have it, while others may develop serious health problems.
Donna Cristy, RN, MSN, FNP-C, said that in many cases men are not aware of the infection and therefore, unknowingly pass it to every person they have sex with.
“[HPV] is passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal or anal sex, but can also be passed through oral sex,” Ms. Cristy said. “Today’s casual sex practices with multiple sex partners have contributed to the vast spread of the virus.”
The only way to prevent contracting the virus is abstinence, she said.
“And the next best thing is condoms and decreasing the number of sex partners over a lifetime,” Ms. Cristy said.
But she warns that those methods still have no guarantee.
“Condoms only cover the penial shaft, leaving much of the genital area exposed.” she said.
Most HPV viruses are found in the scrotal area of the male, not on the penis.
“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,” she said.
And unfortunately, there is no test for men to check his overall HPV status. Many times they only become aware of the infection after a secondary problem develops.
The most common symptoms are 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.
Gardasil® is the only vaccine available that is indicated for men age 9 to 26 for prevention of genital warts caused by types 6 and 11. Further studies are being conducted to determine if men will reap the benefits of protection from the cancer causing (types 16 and 18) strains as well, which are included in the vaccine.
“There is still research being generated to see what the benefits are for cancer prevention in men. But I do believe the recommendation for standard immunization for boys is coming,” Ms. Cristy said. “Personally, I believe it’s a move in a positive direction to immunize boys before they have intercourse, therefore protecting the one’s they will love in the future and minimizing the spread of those most harmful viruses. The vaccine has been found to be very safe and has no serious side effects.”
For more information about men and HPV, go to the CDC’s website.
There are several types of cancers that HPV can cause in men. Here are a few warning signs to look for.
- 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
- 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
- Lump or mass in the neck