Blog: How Can I Tell if I Have HPV?

Published: March 12, 2024

A woman listens to her doctor speak in an exam room

Maybe you have heard that more than 8 out of 10 adults will get HPV — human papillomavirus — in their lifetime.

So how can you tell if you have HPV?

Most of the time, you may not realize you have it. The majority of HPV infections do not have symptoms and go away on their own.

However, several HPV strains can cause noticeable symptoms such as warts in the anal or genital areas. Warts may go away on their own or with treatment from your doctor, or they may multiply if not treated.

HPV can also lead to six types of cancer: anal, cervical, oropharyngeal (in the back of the mouth and throat), penile, vaginal, and vulvar.

When screening for cervical cancer, doctors use an HPV test to detect high-risk HPV strains. They also use a Pap test to check for precancerous cells. If you need help with finding screening services, resources are available. Visit the website for Health in My Hands / Salud en Mis Manos to learn more.

There is no test to detect an HPV infection in men, making catching HPV-related cancers early more difficult.

HPV-related cancers can take years to develop after the initial infection. Many early symptoms may go unnoticed.

Some symptoms of HPV-related cancers include:

  • Anal cancer
    • blood in stool
    • itching
    • pain when going to the bathroom
    • a growth or lump
  • Cervical cancer
    • bleeding after sex
    • bleeding after menopause
    • bleeding between periods
    • heavier and longer periods than normal
    • strong-smelling discharge
    • pain in the pelvis
    • pain after sex
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
    • long-lasting sore throat
    • pain when swallowing
    • earaches
    • hoarseness
    • swelling
    • weight loss
    • a lump in the back of the mouth, throat, or neck
  • Penile cancer
    • color changing and thickening of skin
    • bumps, lumps, growths, or sores
    • rash
    • strong-smelling discharge
    • bleeding
  • Vaginal cancer
    • pain or bleeding after sex
    • bleeding after menopause
    • strong-smelling discharge
    • a noticeable mass in the vagina
    • painful, frequent urination
    • constipation or the urge to go to the bathroom
    • pain in the pelvis
  • Vulvar cancer
    • persistent itching
    • pain
    • bleeding between periods
    • color changing and thickening of skin
    • bumps or sores

Reach out to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that worry you.

HPV vaccination is the most effective way to avoid the risks of an HPV infection. The HPV9 vaccine protects against nine strains of HPV that can cause warts and cancers. Both males and females should get vaccinated. The best time to get the vaccine is early, by the age of 12 — long before coming into contact with the virus. But it’s never too late to get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 9 to 26. Men and women ages 27 to 45 years old can consult with their doctor about getting the HPV vaccine.

The body’s immune response to the HPV vaccine is also stronger at younger ages. Before 15, young people only need two doses to complete the series. After 15, they need three doses for full protection.

All for Them organizes vaccination clinics for Texas youths across the state. In partnership with health care providers, school districts, and community organizations, All for Them provides life-saving immunizations — including the HPV vaccine — to youths who may not otherwise have access to them.

Learn more about All for Them’s mission to reduce HPV-related cancers in Texas, and find a vaccine clinic near you, at AllForThemVaccines.com.