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HPV in Men: How Serious Is It?
Posted: Jan 17th, 2019 at 12:00AM
Contrary to popular belief, women aren't the only ones who need to worry about contracting genital human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV in men is more common than you might think. Take note, though, that just because it's common doesn't mean it can't be very dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV infects about 14 million American men and women every year. And while there is currently no known treatment or cure for HPV, the HPV vaccine is your best defense against contracting this infection.
What Exactly Is HPV?
HPV is a group of related viruses that can cause genital warts and cancer. In fact, there are more than 150 different virus strains of HPV and each one has their own number, called its HPV type.
Once infected, both men and women are at risk of developing certain kinds of cancer, dependent upon what strain they contracted.
Unfortunately, HPV is a very common virus that affects teens and adults. How common? Well, the CDC reports that 80% of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime. Yes, many of us will deal with HPV eventually.
HPV-related health problems can be a big concern for men. In fact, a whopping 5,600 men get cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat) each year — and this is just one type of cancer.
How Do Men Get It?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world today, and most people will contract it at some point. HPV in men can be transmitted by intimate skin-to-skin contact — including sex with an infected person. Remember, though, that it doesn't take intercourse to contract it — just skin contact.
What Are the Symptoms?
The CDC reports that HPV in men usually doesn't cause any symptoms at all, which is perhaps why it's so deceiving. In fact, most infections will go away on their own. However, some men can have HPV for years unbeknownst due to the lack of symptoms.
When symptoms and signs are present, they may include:
- Genital warts
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area
- Changes in bowel habits
- Sore throat or ear pain that doesn't go away
- Weight loss
- Constant coughing
- Hoarseness or voice changes that last more than two weeks
- Lump or mass in the neck
Considering HPV left untreated can have scary consequences, you shouldn't assume you're safe just because the disease might disappear on its own.
How Can Men Treat HPV?
While there is an approved HPV test for women to screen for cervical cancer, there is currently no recommended test for men to take if they suspect they may have contracted HPV.
Instead, you should always be on alert for any visible abnormalities. If you notice any, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Warts can be treated by medicine, surgical removal, or by being frozen off — but they often come back after treatment and may require multiple sessions. If left untreated, they may end up going away on their own or grow in size or numbers.
- Cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy but sometimes requires a combination of treatments.
Is HPV Preventable?
Since HPV is sexually transmitted, the only way to prevent infection is through abstaining from all sexual contact in general.
If that isn't an option for you, using condoms in all sexual acts, from start to finish, can help lower your chances of either contracting or transmitting HPV. Keep in mind that HPV can infect areas not covered by condoms, so this is not a totally foolproof method of prevention.
For those 45 and younger, there is a vaccine that is recommended by the CDC that can help protect boys and men from the HPV types that cause warts and cancers. And while it's safe for all men through the age of 45, the CDC states it's most effective when given at a younger age (prior to your first sexual contact).
The HPV vaccine is only effective against new infections and will not treat or cure anyone who was infected prior to vaccination. It helps prevent common HPV types, including two strains that cause genital warts and two that cause cancers.
But is it worth getting vaccinated? Yes — it's very worth it! The CDC reports that clinical trials showed HPV vaccines provide close to 100% protection against genital warts. There may not be a test for men, but the vaccine can give you the protection you need.
Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?
The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for the following boys and men:
- All boys ages 11 or 12
- Males through age 21 who have not already received all three doses
- Any man who has sex with men
- Men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26 (if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger)
- Men up to age 45 when indicated
Getting vaccinated isn't just about protecting yourself. It's also about protecting all the individuals you come into intimate contact with. By getting the HPV vaccine, you help slow the spread of the disease and shield yourself and others from more serious health complications. You can quickly and easily receive this vaccine at e7 Health.
- Hepatitis A, B, and C
Testing is private, and our medical experts will work with you to answer your questions and clear up any concerns. If left untreated, STDs can lead to further health complications that can be deadly. Fortunately, STD testing and vaccination can help you stay healthy and safe.
If you're in the Las Vegas or Chicago areas, e7 Health can provide you with more information on the HPV vaccination for men. We make testing and vaccination convenient and affordable. Contact us today for help or to schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.
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