If you watch the news, you’ve probably noticed that HPV has been the source of much political controversy. That said, it is a sexually transmitted infection that affects a surprisingly high number of people.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD. Nearly half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with genital HPV, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The virus is spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. It can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with the infected area regardless of symptom presence.
There are approximately 40 types of genital HPV, but about 14 of these can be more serious. Two HPV strains (types 16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions. These more serious strains, including HPV-16 and HPV-18, are called high-risk HPV (hrHPV). About one in five women and one in four men have hrHPV.
Low-risk HPV infections can cause skin warts on and around the genitals, anus, mouth, or throat. There is no commercial test available to detect low-risk HPV infection. If you have warts on your body, you should see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.
How Does HPV Work?
First things first, HPV is easily transmittable through intimate skin-to-skin contact with someone who has HPV. Fortunately, all is not lost. Most of the time, an HPV infection is relatively harmless and can clear up on its own, especially if you are a woman under 30 years of age. Overall, there are more than 100 types of HPV. Of these, there are 14 high-risk HPV types.
HPV and Cervical Cancer
Once a woman reaches 30 years of age, the presence of hrHPV infection takes on greater significance and requires further evaluation because it can cause pre-cancerous changes to the cervix. If the abnormal cells are left untreated, HPV can cause cervical cancer. About 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and almost 4,000 women die from it.
For this reason, there is an HPV test for women over the age of 30 only. In the past, the only test available for cervical cancer screening was a Pap smear. In 2014, the FDA approved an HPV test for primary cervical cancer screening. This test detects DNA from 14 high-risk HPV types (including types 16 and 18) and can help medical providers determine the next steps following a positive hrHPV test.
Who is at Risk?
With such a high rate of infection, you’d think that almost everyone is at risk for HPV… and you’d be right. Most of the time, HPV is transferred during sexual activity. This means skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
That said, some people are at greater risk than others. Age also plays a factor since teens and young adults are more susceptible to genital warts. Other risk factors that increase your chance of infection include a weak immune system.
One of the largest issues with HPV is that it is downright difficult to detect the virus without a proper screening. Many infected folks never exhibit any visible symptoms. This happens in a lot of cases.
As you may have guessed, using an HPV home test kit or visiting a clinic is the only way to truly know your status.
What About Everyone Else?
The CDC does not recommend HPV testing for men or women under 30, but it does recommend use of an HPV vaccine for men and women under 26. In women under 30 years of age, hrHPV infections are usually cleared by the immune system in two years or less. Without long term risks, testing this population can lead to unnecessary or damaging treatment and expenses.
HPV tests for men, as well as HPV tests done on non-cervical sites such as the mouth and throat, are not currently accurate or reliable. There are also no treatments available for men with hrHPV positive tests or for anyone with hrHPV positive tests in the mouth and throat.
Does myLAB Box Offer an HPV Home Test Kit for Everyone?
Sadly, the answer here is “no.” As of today, there is not a reliable HPV test available for men. For women under 30 years old, HPV will likely clear on its own and testing is not recommended for women under 30 years old. myLAB Box offers two HPV test kits for women over the age of 30. The HPV for Women 30+ and the Cervical Cancer Screening using HPV kits both use the same laboratory test to detect high risk-HPV types. Both of these kits are listed separately on the myLAB Box website because some women are looking for a cervical cancer screening test and others are looking for an STD test kit that detects high risk-HPV types.
The proper use of condoms can reduce the likelihood of contracting HPV. An HPV vaccine has also been approved for men and women less than 26 years of age.
The problem is that HPV typically does not show symptoms until the virus is quite advanced, making it more difficult to treat. If women over 30 test regularly regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms, the infection is more likely to be diagnosed and treated.
How to Use an At-Home HPV Test
Now that we have established the importance of an at home HPV test for women who are 30 years of age or older, it will benefit you to know how simple the test is to take. Let’s review how the process works:
- Order. Order your chosen test(s) online with free shipping. In addition to HPV, myLAB Box tests for all of the most common infections, including syphilis, HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, Hepatitis C and more.
- Test. Your test will arrive in discreet packaging. You can take your test at any time and from any place you choose. It will only take about five minutes!
- Results. You will receive an email when your results are ready. These results will be lab-certified, just like the ones from any medical facility. You can check these results privately from a secure portal. Only you will have access to them.
- Follow-Up. Should you test positive, you are entitled to a phone consultation with a physician. If you live in a state that allows telemedicine (and most do), your physician can even prescribe your treatment.
Testing and treatments for hrHPV on non-cervical sites such as the mouth and throat are not available. Luckily, for many women, that is not the case for genital hrHPV. This infection is curable as long as it is detected. You can take a big step in preventing the possibility of cervical cancer simply by ordering an at home HPV test!
Worried that you might have been exposed to HPV? Don’t wait, get tested for HPV.
- Wiley DJ, Douglas J, Beutner K, et al. External Genital Warts: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2002.
- Bosch FX, Manos MM, Muñoz N, et al. Prevalence of Human Papillomavirus in Cervical Cancer: a Worldwide Perspective. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 1995.
- Mahmoodi P, Fani M, Rezayi M, et al. Early detection of cervical cancer based on high‐risk HPV DNA‐based genosensors: A systematic review. International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. November 2018.