Published On: Tue, Dec 8th, 2015

Exploring High-risk HPV, Testing Options and the Gardasil Vaccine

HPV – or human papillomavirus – is actually a group of viruses with more than 100 different strains or types. More than 30 of these are sexually transmitted, and although it’s relatively benign in most cases, it does have a link with cervical cancer and development of genital warts in some specific strains.

What Are the High-Risk Strains?

HPV strains are split into high-risk and low-risk subsections. Of all the potential variants of HPV, only a handful are considered to be high-risk. Of these, are HPV 16 and 18 as well as 31, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 58 and a few others.

According to the CDC, HPV 16 and 18 are mostly benign in men, but are present in 99-percent of women with cervical cancer. HPV 16 is the cause of approximately 50-percent of all cervical cancers and when combined with 18, they account for 70-percent of new diagnosis cervical cancer cases.

While HPV-related cancer is uncommon in men, it’s not entirely unheard of. Generally, men with other risk factors, such as a suppressed immune system or men who receive anal sex are more likely to develop HPV-related cancers.

While cancer risk is significantly lower in men, they are still carriers of the disease even when symptoms aren’t present. In addition, genital warts are a concern for both men and women depending on the specific strain of the virus contracted.



How Do I Get Tested?

For men, there are no approved tests that have been proven to be accurate in detecting signs of HPV.

Detecting HPV in women is typically done with a pap smear, but as understanding of the virus increases, newer and less-invasive tests are beginning to hit the market.

One of these tests, a high risk HPV test offered by Trovagene, is actually a urine test used to detect a genetic marker  common in high risk strains of HPV. The test requires a  sample of urine collected at your physician’s office. Testing is done off-site with results delivered to your healthcare professional when they are available. The Trovagene HPV HR test detects the presence of HPV genotypes 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, and 68.

How Is It Treated?

Low-risk HPV typically runs its course without much – or any – intervention required. Of course, the infected typically has no idea they have HPV or that it’s running its course. High-risk HPV currently has no treatment options, but your healthcare professional may be able to treat the symptoms, such as genital warts, or require additional annual testing for presence of certain types of cervical cancer.

The best course of action currently available takes the form of a vaccine, called Gardasil. The vaccine is available for both male and female patients up to 26 years of age (for women) and 21 years of age (for men).

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and outside of education on risky sexual behavior (typically becoming sexually active at an early age – in this case), there isn’t a lot we can do about it. What we can do is take advantage of both the vaccine, and the testing options available.

Author: Ravi Kumarr Gupta


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