How Do I Know If I Have HPV?

If you have HPV, you might never know it. It’s so common that the CDC estimates that almost 80 million people in the United States have it.

Depending on the type of HPV you get, you may or may not have symptoms. Many people don’t.

Some HPV types can cause genital warts. Others are linked to cancer of the cervix and other organs. And some HPV types cause common warts that you can find on other areas of the body like your hands or feet.

If you have genital warts, that’s a sign of HPV. These growths don’t all look the same. They can be raised, flat, pink, or flesh-colored. They might even be shaped like cauliflower. You could have a single wart or several. They can be small or large. They may grow on the anus, cervix, scrotum, groin, thigh, or penis.

Genital warts can show up weeks, months, or even years after you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a person who’s infected with an HPV virus. He (or she) might not know he’s infected.

Some types of genital HPV infection are linked to cancer, including cervical cancer and cancer of the vulva, anus, oropharynx (the middle part of the throat, behind the mouth), or penis. If you get infected with one of these virus types, it’s possible that you could have precancerous changes in cells in the tissue without any symptoms.

Can I Be Tested?

If you’re healthy, doctors don’t routinely test for HPV.

For women, the Pap test doesn’t check for HPV. It looks for changes in cells in your cervix. If you have certain changes in those cells, your doctor may ask the lab to check for the virus. If you’re over age 30 and your pap is normal, your doctor may still test you for HPV. This is called “co-testing.”

If you have HPV and abnormal cervical cells, your doctor might order more tests right away. If you have HPV but your Pap results are normal, you may also need to get checked again in a year.

There’s no HPV test for men.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on April 06, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Barbara Levy, MD, gynecologist, St. Francis Women's Health Center, Seattle

FDA: "HPV (human papillomavirus)."

Diane Harper, MD, Professor of Community and Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.

CDC: "Genital HPV Infection-CDC Fact Sheet."

News release, FDA: "FDA Approves Expanded Use of HPV Test."  

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Practice Bulletin on Human Papillomavirus,” "Cervical Cancer Screening."

CDC: “Human Papillomavirus: Questions and Answers.”

American Cancer Society: “HPV and HPV Testing.”

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