Male HPV Testing—How and Why

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HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a human virus that can cause warts, genital warts and precancerous changes of the throat, penis, vaginal cervix or anus. High-risk types are more associated with precancerous changes, and low-risk types are more associated with warts.

According to the CDC, among U.S. adults ages 18-59 in 2013-2014, about 45 percent of men and 40 percent of women had genital HPV infection. Among these, 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had high-risk genital HPV infection.

Women get tested, but men don’t

In the U.S., women ages 21-65 are screened for precancerous cervical cells (Pap smear) and HPV infection every 1-3 years, depending on their personal history. As of 2012, the CDC does not recommend routine screening for HPV, oropharyngeal, penile or anal cancer for men, and there is no FDA-approved test for HPV screening. However, the HPV vaccine is recommended for boys ages 11-26.

We are doing a disservice to men and the people they have sex with by failing to test routinely for penile HPV. It is known that HPV transmission rates via unprotected anal and vaginal sex are high. A 1996 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men are significant vectors for transmission of high-risk HPV to their wives. “The presence of HPV DNA in the husbands' penis conveyed a fivefold risk of cervical cancer to their wives.”

If we can prevent cancer, how can we ignore this risk?

What other known, preventable condition that has the potential to increase cancer risk fivefold is so disregarded by the CDC? In our practice at San Francisco Natural Medicine, we do offer and routinely recommend penile, anal and oropharyngeal HPV DNA testing depending on one’s sexual practices.

WHO SHOULD BE SCREENED FOR PENILE, ANAL or OROPHARYNGEAL HPV?

If you have a partner with HPV or cervical dysplasia, are planning to have unprotected sex, are entering a new relationship, have anal sex (either receptive or penetrative), have sex with multiple partners, or have never been tested and are in a monogamous relationship, you should consider getting screened – sites based on your sexual practices.

If you want to be tested, what should you do?

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• San Francisco Natural Medicine offers penile, anal and orophargyngeal HPV testing via West Coast Pathology Labs.
• Call 415-643-6600 to make a brief initial appointment with Dr. Claire Graser.
• The test is a simple penile swab the patient does in privacy.
• If the test is positive, we offer antiviral and immune supportive botanical and nutritional treatment options.

What happens next?

Should you disclosed that you have penile HPV? Obviously, this is a personal, ethical decision, but it’s a conversation that should be had between sexual partners so that each person can make an informed decision about their sexual practice. I recommend condoms if you haven’t had this discussion.

Have the conversation, get tested, request partners to be tested, and use condoms to reduce risk of transmission.

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Dr. Claire Graser specializes in holistic detoxification, women’s health, hormone balancing, weight loss, anxiety and stress management, as well as abdominal massage to support healthy digestion and detox. Dr. Graser creates comprehensive wellness plans for patients at San Francisco Natural Medicine Tue-Fri, and is currently accepting new patients. Call 415-643-6600 to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consult.