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HPV Testing: And Why It Matters For Your Sexual Health

The HPV virus is like a roommate who was meant to be going away for the weekend; virtually everyone with an active sex life is exposed to it at least once. So why do most of us know so little about it? It’s time to give HPV (less catchily known as Human papillomavirus) some airtime.  

The HPV virus is like a roommate who was meant to be going away for the weekend; virtually everyone with an active sex life is exposed to it at least once. 

Yep, as far as STIs are concerned, this one is about as common as it gets. 

So why do most of us know so little about it?  

Move over, gonorrhea! Quit hogging the mic, chlamydia!  

It’s time to give HPV (less catchily known as Human papillomavirus) some airtime.  

Thankfully, 90% of HPV infections clear up on their own. Still, some strains can lead to further health complications like genital warts and, in more severe cases, cervical and anal cancer. 

But don’t worry; it’s not all doom and gloom.

Knowing what’s going on down there not only keeps up there in check, but it’s also fascinating!

So without further ado, here’s the DL on HPV testing.

Read on to discover why it can - and should - play an essential role in your sexual well-being. 

The Testing Basics:

There are two tests, both of which can detect over 100 types of HPV:

  • The HPV DNA test is most commonly used and detects the presence of HPV DNA. 
  • However, the HPV RNA test is slightly different and offers a valuable glimpse into the activity of the virus. How? By identifying its genetic material. Clever, right?

This might sound complicated, but trust us; it’s pretty straightforward.

The tests involve taking a long, hard look at a sample of cells and scrutinizing them for any signs of HPV.

These cells can be taken from the cervix or anus and are gathered using a small brush or swab. 

This is typically done as part of a routine gynecological exam for women or during a sexual health exam for men and women.

Don’t worry if you don’t have an appointment on the calendar. 

You can conduct an HPV test within the comfort of your own four walls using Sagauro Bloom’s at-home test. 

Grab your test, get comfy, gather your sample (it’s easier than it sounds, and we’ve included clear instructions), and we’ll take care of the rest.

Once the sample reaches the laboratory, results usually only take a few days. 

If the test is positive, your healthcare provider may conduct another to determine the type of HPV further and whether it’s a high-risk strain that can lead to cancer.

Why is HPV testing important?

The main thing to remember is that there aren’t always visible symptoms, but a test can detect the presence of HPV even when there are no apparent signs. 

Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers among women, and HPV infections cause most cases. Thankfully, if the virus is detected, early treatment can begin. The same goes for people of all genders at risk of anal cancer.

That’s right; testing isn’t just necessary for women. It’s essential for everyone who is out there having sex, making love, or doing whatever the young people are calling it these days.

Let’s dive a little deeper into that.

Who should be tested for HPV?

The standard advice suggests women aged 25-65 should undergo HPV testing every five years as part of their cervical cancer screening and that men who have sex with other men (and are therefore classed as high risk) may also benefit from routine testing.

Remember, the HPV test only checks for HPV.

If you think you've been exposed to another STI, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia, speak to your healthcare provider. They can arrange the relevant tests during your subsequent sexual health or gynecological exam.

At Saguaro Bloom, we also offer a comprehensive STI test so you can box off any other sexual health concerns at the same time. 

With any STI, early detection and treatment are vital in preventing serious health complications and promoting overall sexual health.

Is there anything you should be watching out for?

Let’s take a look at some of the possible signs.

The Symptoms of HPV

While many people with HPV experience no symptoms, some strains can cause visible signs. These include genital warts, which are - you guessed it - small, raised bumps found on or around the genitals. 

The name ‘genital warts’ is somewhat misleading, as they can also appear on the mouth and anus, but good luck renaming them based on that.

We’re sure you’ll be pleased to hear that they are treatable. However, like an annoying ex, there is always a chance they may come back. This is because the virus can sneakily remain dormant in the body even after removing warts.

Other signs and symptoms to look out for are abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during intercourse, changes in bowel movements, and pelvic pain. 

It’s worth remembering that these symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions and not all cases of HPV-related cancer cause symptoms.

And while we’re sure you’re already being careful (you’re mature and responsible enough to read an educational, medical blog, after all), condoms can reduce the risk of contracting HPV.

However, they don’t provide complete protection. The virus can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact in areas not covered by a condom. 

This is why the HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone aged between 9 and 45.

The A to Z on HPV

So, what have we learned?

Moral of the story: don’t be shy. 

Order a test and put your mind at rest.

Even without visible symptoms, HPV can lead to serious health complications, but getting tested is quick, and with Saguaro Bloom’s at-home kit, you don’t even have to get dressed to do it. 

Your sexual health matters, so if you’re concerned about HPV or other STIs, speak to one of our friendly advisors to learn more about our HPV test.

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