Men’s Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing
For a long time, there has been no established HPV tests for men.
However, recently there has been growing evidence that the new HPV tests can be used for screening in men.
To understand Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, we must first appreciate the fact that HPV lives inside our skin and mucosal cells. It is not found in the blood.
In other words, we need to take skin or mucosal cells, crack them open, then use DNA testing methods to find the virus inside.
In other words, we can only test for HPV in very specific areas. There is no one test to test for HPV anywhere and everywhere in the body.
So if we swab the patient’s mouth and throat for HPV, it is only testing for HPV in the mouth and throat. If the same patient has HPV in the penis, the test will not pick it up.
The other very important thing to remember, is that current tests for HPV only tests for Type 16, 18 and other High Risk Types. In other words, if a patient is infected with only Low Risk HPV Types, the test will not pick it up.
The last important thing to know is that while these tests are gaining popularity, they are still not established. HPV testing is only established for the Cervix in women. In other words, there is still no official recommendation for HPV testing in any other place than the Cervix.
However, the scientific data for HPV testing in places other than the Cervix is gathering. Already HPV testing for the Anal canal is very accepted but still not officially recommended. I am sure the health policies and recommendation will soon reflect the scientific evidence.
I am in fact very proud of the fact that several years ago, I was the one who gathered and presented the evidence to the lab for them to accept and allow HPV testing of the anal canal.
With these caveats in mind, let us now discuss the procedures.
1. Mouth / Throat Swab
HPV in the mouth and throat is related to oro-pharyngeal cancer. Remember Michael Douglas?
A brush is used to collect cells from the inner cheek and the sides at the back of the throat. The cells collected are then placed in a special fluid and sent for testing. It is a painless and easy procedure.
Some clinics advise not brushing your teeth or using mouth washes in the morning before the procedure. While I think this is good practice, I personally do not think it makes a big difference. This is because cells from the inner cheek and throat come off rather easily with the brush we use for collection.Click here for STD Symptoms in the Mouth
2. Anal Swab
HPV in the anus is related to anal cancer. This is extremely high risk in HIV +ve MSM. It is lower risk is everyone else but still a concern.
You do not need to practice receptive anal sex to get HPV in the anus.
The procedure for HPV testing of the anus is also easy and painless. A tiny brush is inserted about 2cm into the anus and rotated. The cells collected are then placed in a special fluid and sent for testing.
There is of course no special preparation required prior to the procedure.Click here for STD Symptoms in the Anus
3. Pubic, Penile, Scrotal Swab
HPV is related to Penile Cancer. Shocking but true.
This test is probably the most straightforward and most certainly painless. A brush is used to swab the penis, pubic region and scrotum. The cells collected are then placed in a special fluid and sent for testing.
Some clinics recommend not washing the area for 3 days prior to the test. I certainly think this is good practice however, I think not washing for 1 day is good enough. This is because within 1 day, enough skin cells would have collected for us to get a good sample.Click here for Info on STD Symptoms in Men Click here for Info on STD Symptoms in Women
Cost and other admin matters
The lab charges $258 for 1 sample.
Where to swab obviously depends on the type of sexual exposure.
If you’ve only had receptive oral sex (i.e. you used your mouth on your partner’s genitals) you only need a throat and mouth swab.
If you’ve had insertive oral, anal or vaginal sex (i.e. you inserted you penis into your partner’s anus, mouth or vagina OR your pubic area came into contact with your partner’s anus, mouth or vagina even if there was no penetration per se) you need a swab of the pubic region, penis and scrotum.
If you have had receptive anal sex (i.e. your partner inserted his penis in your anus OR your partner’s penis came into contact with your anus even if there was no penetration OR your partner used hi/her mouth on your anus), you need a swab of the anal canal.
Sometimes, what we do is swab the penile, pubic region, scrotum AND anal canal with the same swab brush. This reduces cost but cannot differentiate where the HPV is if it comes back positive.
We of course cannot use the same swab brush for the pubic or anal region and the throat. Hygiene reasons you know.
HPV Vaccines for Men
HPV vaccines has been used in Men for several years now. In fact, in some countries have made it a law that all men and boys get vaccinated for HPV.
HPV vaccines protect men from getting Genital Warts as well as Penile Cancer, Anal Cancer and Throat Cancer.
Learn more about HPV Vaccine for Men
So what to do now?
If you require HPV testing or would like to get vaccinated, come down to our clinics.
All Our Doctors are Fully Certified and Trained to conduct specialised STD and HIV Testing.
Need more advice?
- Robertson Walk (Anonymous HIV Clinic) (+65 6238 7810)
- DUO Galleria (Bugis MRT) (+65 6976 5023)
- Novena Medical Centre (+65 6397 2095)
- Somerset – Orchard Building (+65 6262 0762)
- Raffles Place – PLUS (+65 6962 7144)
- Holland V (+65 6235 1339)
- Siglap (East Coast Road) (+65 6962 2144)
Where to find us – here
Selected clinics are open on Saturday and Sunday.
For lady patients who prefer female doctors, we have professional certified female Doctors to attend to your medical needs.
About Dr. Tan
Dr. Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001. His residency was in the two largest public hospitals in Singapore; Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.