HPV Testing

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a fairly common virus that can affect both men and women in different parts of their bodies. There are more than 100 HPV strains, including those that cause warts on your feet, hands, face, and genital areas, among others. At least 40 strains are transmitted sexually.

Each type of HPV is numbered and classified as either low-risk or high-risk. Low-risk HPV strains are generally mild whereas high-risk strains are more aggressive and should be treated with immediate effect. High-risk strains can also result in cancer or cell mutations.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

A significant number of males with HPV never experience any known symptoms or even realize they’ve contracted the virus.

See a doctor if:

  • You have an infection that refuses to clear up
  • You notice genital warts on your throat, scrotum, anus and penis

Most women who contract the virus don’t always exhibit any known or visible symptoms. However, sometimes the virus can result in painless lumps or growths around your anus or vagina (vagina lumps).

Who is susceptible to HPV?

HPV can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, or race. You can contract HPV if you have sex or close skin-to-skin genital contact with a sexual partner who already has the virus.

Likewise, if you already have the virus, you can easily spread it through oral sex, anal sex, or other close genital contacts.

HPV in women

  • HPV poses the biggest risk to females because high-risk human papillomavirus can easily progress to cervical cancer, particularly if left untreated.
  • Some HPV strains (type 16 and 18) can result in changes in the cervical cells, a condition medically described as cervical dysplasia. If left unattended, cervical dysplasia can quickly advance to cervical cancer.
  • Women aged 30 and above are encouraged to go for regular pap smears/cervical cancer screening

HPV in men

  • Poses relatively few health risks to men compared to women.
  • In men, this particular virus can trigger genital warts.
  • Fortunately, most HPV infections often clear on their own.
  • In the worst case scenarios, HPV can result in cancers of the penis, neck and head, and anus.
  • The risk of anal cancer is at least 17 times greater in sexually active homosexual and bisexual males.

How is HPV diagnosed in Singapore?

HPV is diagnosed through HPV testing.

While HPV testing is crucial for anyone, it is highly recommended for males who engage in same-sex intercourse. This is because such individuals are more likely to contract high-risk HPV even without knowing.

High-risk strains of HPV often do not display any visible or known symptoms.

The HPV screening test boasts an efficacy rate of more than 90%. HPV testing can be carried out on numerous parts of the body, ranging from the penis, vagina, anal as well as throat.

How can I protect myself from HPV?

The best way to protect yourself from human papillomavirus is to get the HPV vaccination. Modern HPV vaccines provide effective protection against 9 strains of HPV while also cross-protecting against many other forms of the virus.

Because most HPV-related cancers are only caused by a few types of HPV, being vaccinated significantly reduces your risk of contracting any HPV-related cancers by more than 90%.

FAQS

There are no known risks associated with an HPV test. However, you may feel some mild discomfort while undergoing the procedure. Afterward, you may experience mild bleeding in your anal or vagina.

No! Currently, as things stand, there is no cure for human papillomavirus. However, your immune system does an incredible job getting rid of the virus from your system. Most HPV-related infections usually clear up within a year or two.

You can ONLY prevent HPV through abstinence. However, for most people, more sustainable and achievable methods include getting the HPV vaccine, going for regular HPV screening and testing and practicing safe sex.

In Singapore, the prevalence rate of HPV-related infections is projected to be around 9.31%. It’s important to mention that infection rates are highly associated with penetrative sex, illiteracy, and having numerous sexual partners.

HPV testing is a straightforward test that involves the drawing of a sample of cells from the site of infection to determine whether those particular cells are infected with high-risk HPV strains.

Currently, no swab or blood test is capable of detecting HPV.

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