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HPV Test for Men: What to Know and What to Expect

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Giann Floresca · Updated Feb 04, 2022

HPV Test for Men: What to Know and What to Expect

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and is in most cases not actually very harmful. Most cases go away on their own even without treatment. However, men are more likely to get HPV than women as they have generally more sexual partners in their lifetime. This is why it is even more critical to get an HPV test for men. But is there one made especially for males? 

HPV for Men

There is technically no approved HPV test for men. There are, however, HPV screening and anal cytology tests. These are not recommended but are used on men who have immunodeficiencies, and who are gay or bisexual. 

Pap Test

The Papanicolau (Pap) test would normally only be done on women to determine cervical cancer. rather than men, however; it has been found to also work to some extent for men who have immunodeficiencies or are at higher risk to get cancer and other diseases and infections. This test is actually normally conducted to look for cervical cancer, but because of the method they use to find cancer, it is equally effective as an HPV test, and even though not normally done on men, it works mostly the same way.

The doctor will get a sample of cells from the urethra instead of the cervix of the woman, and it is these cells that will be sent to the lab and examined. They will stain these sample cells with immunoperoxidase. This allows doctors to locate the Human Papillomavirus that are damaging those very cells. 

Anal cytology

This is another kind of Papinocolau test. Very much like the urethral or cervical variants of this test, this requires first getting sample cells from the anal cavity, usually 2-3 inches from the anal opening, using a swab moistened with tap water.

Are These an Effective Type of HPV Test for Men?

While Papinocolau testing is recommended and quite effective for women, it is not actually approved by the medical community for men because of the high risks outweighing the pros of the test. Papinocolau testing annually doesn’t actually increase the chance of detecting the virus and men’s urethral openings are much narrower than women’s vaginal openings. In addition, any invasive procedure will increase risk and complication.

The risk

Papinocolau testing may sometimes cause bleeding in the scraped area. This injury in a possibly already infected area may lead to worsening infection or even other infections taking hold. Bisexual men, homosexual men, and men with weak immune systems may be approved to have Papinocolau testing done. This is due to their high risk of getting HPV and the cancers associated with HPV transmission. 

HPV usually goes away on its own even without medication especially in men with strong immune systems. And more often than not, it doesn’t cause cancers and doesn’t show symptoms. So safe sexual practices and taking the vaccine are still the best way to avoid HPV transmission. 

Key Takeaways

Although hpv is usually not very harmful because the symptoms might not appear, and the testing for it is unreliable and risky at best, the best way to prevent yourself from getting the virus is still safe sexual practices and a vaccine. 

Learn more about HPV here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Giann Floresca · Updated Feb 04, 2022

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