HPV and Genital Warts

Sample type needed

External Swab (Women and men), Internal Swab (women)

Incubation period 

Variable.  You can be tested at any time for HPV.

Who is this test suitable for?

Men and women

Results time 

Within 5 days of receipt in the lab

Treatment

There is no treatment to cure HPV.  Sometimes the virus clears by itself, but a vaccine is the best way to ensure you avoid infection of high risk types.
Genital warts can be removed.

Where can I get tested?

All Better2Know centres with a doctor

What are HPV and Genital Warts?

The HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a very common family of viruses.  The family are typed, and all given a number.  Some types of the virus can be sexually transmitted. Most HPV infections will not cause any physical symptoms. However, some types of the virus can cause genital warts, and other types have been conclusively identified as commonly causing cervical cancer, penile and rectal cancers. It is also known that certain types of the HPV virus are also responsible for causing cancers of the throat and oesophagus.

Genital Warts can be either flat in appearance, or textured to resemble raspberries or cauliflowers; they are found in the genital area and around the anus. Some warts may also be hidden or invisible. The HPV virus types that cause genital warts are highly contagious and can be spread easily from person to person through physical contact. The type which causes genital warts is low risk, and is not linked to an increase risk of cancer.  Regular testing is recommended to ensure you are aware of your status and that you do not pass these viruses on to your partners.

How do I know if I have it?

The HPV virus is often difficult to detect because most infections cause no immediate symptoms.  The more serious types of HPV are typically invisible. These viruses are the ones that cause cancers.

Symptoms of HPV may include:

Men

  • Genital Warts, which are easier to detect if warts form in a visible part of your genitals. The warts in men tend to form on the shaft, head or base of the penis
  • Infection may play a role in some cancers e.g. of the penis and anus, and oral cancers

Women

  • Genital warts typically around the vagina or the labia, but they can also be found inside the labial folds
  • Genital warts may enlarge during pregnancy due to hormone levels.  If they grow very large, they can become an obstacle during birth
  •    
Did you know? …

Over 170 types or HPV viruses have been identified, and over 40 are typically transmitted through sexual contact.

How can I get the virus?

HPV is highly infectious and can be transmitted by skin to skin contact with an infected person. It can be passed through oral, anal, or vaginal contact but the skin surrounding the genitals may also be infected with the virus. The infected person can show no symptoms, meaning that it is almost impossible to know if your partner is carrying the virus. Some people can transmit the virus to others even if they do not display symptoms of the infection, meaning that you can get genital warts even if they are not present on the infected person. 

What happens if I do not get treatment?

There is no treatment that can get rid of the virus completely, so once you contract the virus it cannot be eliminated with medicine. In some people, the body can clear the virus on its own after some time. However, treatment can get rid of any visible signs of the infection such as genital warts. If you have visible warts, then these can be removed with lasers, creams, surgery or frozen off (cryotherapy).

In some cases, warts are passed from mother to baby during childbirth, leading to a potentially life-threatening condition for newborns in which warts develop in the throat (laryngeal papillomatosis).

Persistent infections are recognised as the major cause of Cervical Cancer and HPV is linked to a number of other cancers in men and women.

HPV Testing and vaccination

Tests and vaccines for women

There are some effective vaccines available for women which provide protection against some high risk types of HPV. Please contact Better2Know to arrange your HPV vaccine. Regular cervical screening for women will pick up any cervical abnormalities before they become cancerous. 

Better2Know test options for women include a full examination of HPV status and cervical health:

  1. A PAP smear, where cells are collected from the cervix using a small brush. The cells are then examined for any trace of abnormalities.
  2. An HPV test, where a sample is collected from the appropriate site and is tested using a PCR method to detect High Risk and Low Risk viral types. This test may disrupt the cells of the cervix making them unsuitable for a PAP test for a period of time, so it may be better to have the combined test if you are worried about both.
  3. A combined PAP smear and HPV test. This is recommended for women concerned about their cervical health and HPV status. This test looks for changes to the cells of the cervix, and tests for types of the HPV virus.

Tests for men

Better2Know offers swab tests for men. Swabs can be taken from the urethra, anus, or any visible warts, however, your Better2Know Doctor will determine the appropriate site for sampling.

Results are available 5 days from when the sample is received in the laboratory.