HPV in Men: Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis

HPV also known as Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection which can lead to cancer.

Updated: December 21, 2017

HPV also known as Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection which can lead to cancer. HPV is a group of over 100 viruses which affect the skin and moist membranes that line the body.
Some of the types of HPV associated with genital cancers can lead to cancer of the anus or penis in men although these cancers are not common. HPV can also cause genital warts in men. Most men who get HPV, develop growths or warts on their penis, testicles, anus, groin and thighs or back of the throat. Most cancers that are found in the back of the throat, including at the base of the tongue and in the tonsils, are HPV related.
The risk of anal cancer is higher in sexually active gay and bisexual men than in men who have sex only with women. Men who have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are also at higher risk of getting this cancer.

Symptoms of HPV and HPV-related cancer:

The high-risk HPV that can cause cancer rarely present any symptoms in men. The first symptom you may see with low-risk HPV are genital warts that cause warts but not cancer.
The warts can be small or large, flat or raised, or cauliflower-shaped and appear as a bump or group of bumps in the area surrounding the penis, anus, or genitals. The warts usually do not hurt but can be ugly.
An HPV infection is not cancer, but the infection can cause changes in the body that may lead to cancer. Some of the symptoms of HPV-related cancers include:

Anal cancer:

  • Swelling in the anal or groin area
  • Bleeding, discharge, pain, or itching of the anus
  • Changes to bowel habits or the shape of stools

Penile cancer:

  • Painful or painless sores or growths on the penis that might bleed
  • Tissue changes on the penis such as color, skin thickening, or tissue buildup

Cancer of the back of the throat:

  • Constant sore throat or ear pain
  • Persistent coughing
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Voice changes or hoarseness
  • Lumps or growths in the neck
  • Weight loss

Causes of HPV in Men:

Men can get HPV through direct, intimate contact or sexual contact. HPV can be spread from one person to another through oral, anal, or vaginal sex or intimate skin-to-skin contact. Most people infected with HPV unknowingly pass it on to their partner because they are unaware of having it.
The chance of contracting HPV is increased by:

  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Age
  • Damaged skin
  • Being uncircumcised
  • Weakened immune system due to organ transplant, HIV, or other conditions that weaken the immune system

The primary cancers caused by HPV are:

  •     cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer in women
  •     penile cancer in men
  •     throat and anal cancer in men and women

If any kind of warts appear on the genitals, or if there are warts that cause discomfort or pain, you should consult a doctor.

Diagnosis of HPV in Men:

The doctor will visually check genital area of a men to see if warts are present to diagnose genital warts in men. Sometimes normal skin is mistakenly identified as a wart. There is no such test for men to check for high-risk HPV strains that can cause cancer. But an anal Pap test can be done for  gay and bisexual men, who are at higher risk of anal cancer caused by HPV. The cells from the anus is collected and then checked for any abnormalities in a lab.




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