Most of the time you can see genital warts. They will appear as raised, flesh colored, pink or red growths. Genital warts can appear in many shapes and sizes. They can be large and protruding or flat and hard to see. Their appearance can be cauliflower-like, rounded or pointed-like projections and can occur singularly or form in groups. See Genital Warts Pictures.
In some cases, genital warts won’t cause any symptoms. In other cases, they may cause itching, burning or tenderness to an infected area. Genital warts inside the vagina may cause bleeding following intercourse or give off an abnormal vaginal discharge.
Warts may appear within several weeks, months, or even years after contact with an infected person.
A doctor will conduct a thorough examination of these areas.
Tests for HPV have come on the market and several have been approved for marketing by the FDA. These tests can detect the majority of high-risk types of HPV that can have the ability to cause cancers.
Since HPV is so prevalent in women under the age of 30, the advice is to limit the test to women over the age of 30 at the same time that they have their Pap smear. Usually, women under 30 fight off the virus. There is also an FDA approved vaccine to fight the high-risk strains of HPV for young girls and women ages 9-26.
The combination of the Pap smear and HPV test is extremely effective in determining cell abnormalities and detecting risks of cervical cancer.
While anal cancer is rare, persistent anal warts caused by HPV are a concern. An anal Pap smear can be effective in detecting abnormal cells.
The Pap test or PAP smear was developed in 1943. It is still the primary way for women to be screened for cervical cancer as well as other vaginal and uterine infections. The test is conducted in a doctor’s office and involves scraping a small sample of cells from the cervix, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. However, no test is perfect. That’s why it’s important to have well woman exams. Cervical cancer takes time to grow and monitoring for abnormal cell changes can help to prevent the growth and severity of disease.
It is recommended that a Pap test be done between the ages of 18-21 depending on sexual activity. The frequency of the exams should be determined by the condition of your health and recommendation of your healthcare provider.
HPV Testing in Women
Since high-risk forms of HPV are associated with cervical-cancer, a Pap test would be conducted to rule out the possibility of abnormal cells. If the test comes back abnormal, further tests may be conducted using a biopsy (for example, taken from a genital wart from the uterine cervix) to see if a high-risk HPV is detected.
See your doctor if you find warts, blisters, sores, ulcers, white patches, or anything that looks out of the ordinary on or around your genital areas or anus.
HPV Testing in Men
While there is no FDA-approved test to detect HPV in men, some men are at high risk to develop certain cancers. Men having sex with men and men with HIV can be tested for high risk types of HPV by the use of an anal pap smear.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved the use of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil® for boys or young men ages 9-26.
Anal cancer is being linked to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes anal warts. An anal Pap smear is the anal counterpart to the cervical Pap smear used for early detection of cancer. Individuals with a history of anal warts are at particular risk of getting anal cancer.
An anal Pap smear is a simple procedure that is performed in a doctor’s office. Doctors familiar with the procedure are colorectalsurgeons and proctologists. These doctors specialize in rectal issues and also treat anal warts, HPV, and anal cancer.
The same Pap smear kit is used as with cervical cancer, which includes a small brush or cotton-tipped rod that is inserted into the anus to collect cells. The cells are then smeared onto a glass slide, air-dried, and sealed with an adhesive. Many medical offices prefer to suspend the collected cells in a liquid medium; the suspension is then plated on a glass slide. The specimen is sent to a pathologist to analyze the cells. With over 40 types of HPV, the type can also be determined and whether the cells are abnormal.
Who should have an anal Pap smear? There are no set guidelines for screenings. Some recommend that anyone who has anal sex should have an anal Pap smear once a year. Anyone with a history of anal warts should have anal Pap smear. It is recommended that men having sex with men should have the procedure each year. Those who are HIV positive are at particular risk for anal cancer as well as those with persistent anal warts and should be screened every six months to a year. Others recommend screening every three years for those not HIV positive.
Is an anal Pap smear effective? The anal Pap smear’s effectiveness is similar to the cervical Pap smear. Both are good at early detection of abnormal cells but not at predicting future changes. That’s why it’s so important to have a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis, follow-up testing and treatment of HPV, and anal issues.
What happens if abnormal cells are found? An examination is done with a High Resolution Anoscopy. The procedure involves viewing the anal wall to spot any lesions. This is done through the insertion of a thin but powerful scope into the rectum.
A specialist trained in conducting anoscopies looks for abnormalities and lesions. If any are found, the anoscopist will remove a small sample of tissue or biopsy, that will be sent to the lab for a detailed examination of the tissue cells.
The lesion’s cells are classified into three categories: Low, moderate or high-grade. Low-grade lesions, anal warts and cervical warts are typically caused by strains of HPV that are not associated with cancer. Moderate and high-grade lesions represent the likelihood of turning into cancer.
Early detection is key and an anal Pap smear is a cost effective procedure that costs around $80 (per Lab Corp, 2011).