Best DNA Tests For HPV
What Are The Best DNA Tests For HPV?
For many people, the idea of getting HPV is pretty scary. This invisible virus is often contracted without you knowing it, and can often persist without showing any symptoms.
But when it comes to finding out if you have contracted HPV, it’s not necessarily easy. For women, an annual requiring a pap smear at the gynecologist office is often the only way of knowing whether or not they may have contracted HPV.
And for men, there’s currently no test to confirm or clear them of having HPV. With this in mind, the idea of HPV can be pretty frightening, but it doesn’t have to be.
To better understand how a DNA test for HPV is, and how it works, it’s important to first understand just what HPV is. This acronym is short for Human Papillomavirus and isn’t actually one kind of virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, HPV is a group of more than 150 similar viruses. Because there are so many viruses in the HPV family, each is named by number.
What most people know about HPV is that it can cause illnesses such as cervical, vaginal, or anal cancers (commonly attributed to strains HPV-16 and HPV-18). It can also cause conditions such as genital warts (HPV viruses 6 and 11).
But, what many don’t realize is that HPV isn’t always a a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, more recent research on the disease shows that people who aren’t even sexually active can contract HPV through contact with surfaces where an HPV virus may be present, such as exercise equipment at the gym or from exam tables at a doctor’s office.
This shouldn’t scare you, because according to the CDC, most of the time HPV goes away on its own. HPV is considered so common that almost everyone — 80 percent of both men and women, anyone can be affected — will have HPV at some point in their lifetime.
Many times HPV is completely asymptomatic, meaning you could have or carry the disease for a period of time and not even know it. When some people do develop symptoms, it could be years after being infected with HPV, meaning it’s really hard to pinpoint exactly when they got it.
So, knowing all this about HPV, you may still be wondering if there’s a way to test for it, to determine if you have ever contracted it. An official doctor’s office test for men doesn’t exist — that’s because many HPV researchers still have so much to learn about the group of viruses and how they impact men’s bodies, and worry what to do with HPV results when no treatment is available.
Though, it’s worth noting that at-home HPV testing kits are becoming increasingly marketed towards men.
For women, the most common way to test for HPV is through a pap smear, a procedure where the cervix is swabbed for cells, which are then examined in a lab to determine abnormalities. While pap smears have been around for decades, there’s still a lot of accuracy wiggle room; pap smears often produce false-negatives, meaning that they show that everything’s just fine when actual cell abnormalities may be present.
You may be wondering how exactly DNA testing get involved in HPV research and screening? Within the last five years, HPV and genetics researchers have been able to create new testing that may identify HPV through a DNA test, and could possibly replace the need for a pap smear.
What Is A DNA Test For HPV?
So, if DNA testing for HPV is potentially more effective, how does it work?
DNA tests for HPV have been around for nearly a decade, and researchers believe they can be increasingly more accurate than traditional HPV testing done through a pap smear.
Up until recently, most DNA tests for HPV had to be performed by a doctor, with an OB-GYN collecting a cell sample from within the vagina and near the cervix before sending it off to a laboratory for analysis. But with the boom of at-home DNA testing kits, there are now options to test for the virus within the comfort of your own home.
These kits allow you to skip the doctor’s office and self-screen for HPV. After your results have been received by the test kit company, they’ll be analyzed by a lab technician.
Unlike most DNA tests that collect saliva and digitize your DNA sample to learn more about you HPV DNA tests usually examine the cells you submit under a microscope. This process allows a doctor or lab technician to visually observe the cells; from there, they can determine if the genetic material in HPV is present in your sample.
In most cases, at-home DNA test kits can’t check for all 150 viruses that are classified within the HPV family, but they can often screen for the top 10 to 20 strains of HPV that are known to be the most common or high-risk.
Many at-home DNA tests for HPV are broken into two categories: low-risk HPV and high-risk HPV. These two designations are based on how researchers categorize the health issues that HPV’s different strains can cause:
- Low-risk HPV strains: These kinds of HPV are generally considered harmless. Low-risk strains of HPV can cause conditions such as genital warts, but in most cases, don’t lead to any further health issues. Common low-risk HPV strains include HPV-6 and HPV-11 (which HPV researchers say cause nearly 90 percent of all cases of genital warts).
- High-risk HPV strains: If you’re worried about cancers caused by HPV, it’s the high-risk strains of the virus family that you’ll be more concerned about. High-risk HPV strains can cause cells to chance abnormally, leading to a variety of cancers. Doctors and researchers acknowledge that strains HPV-16 and HPV-18 are related to nearly 70 percent of cervical cancers, while HPV-16 also plays a role in more than 90 percent of anal cancers. Some of the other strains of HPV that are considered high-risk include HPV-31, 33, 35, 45, 52, 58, and 59.
At-home DNA test kits all differ in the number and kinds of HPV strains that they check for. It’s not a bad idea to look for a test that caters to a wide number of HPV strains.
For some people, just using a high-risk HPV strains test kit is all the information they need, considering that low-risk HPV strains often go away on their own with few to no symptoms.
How Do I Take A DNA Test For HPV?
Many women dread getting an annual pap smear, so the idea that you can get a DNA test to rule out HPV seems like a better alternative.
While the test results can be much more accurate through a HPV DNA test, unfortunately, the procedure is quite similar to an invasive pap smear. Regardless of whether you choose to have a DNA test for HPV done at your doctor’s office or by ordering a kit to use at home, the process is similar.
At a doctor’s office or health clinic that offers the HPV DNA test, the doctor will take a sample of cells from within your vagina and near your cervix using a wand-like scraping tool that gently collects the cells. From there, you may also choose to have a pap smear, which can be a great diagnostic test for other health issues, but it isn’t required.
At the doctor’s office, you won’t have to worry about the details of sending off a sample — office staff will handle this for you.
If you choose to use an at-home HPV DNA kit, you’ll first need to select a kit from a reputable company (there are recommendations listed below). From there, you’ll collect the internal cells yourself, swabbing the inside of your vagina to collect the DNA sample.
After following your test kit’s detailed instructions, you’ll prepare the sample to be sent off to the lab, and then it’s just a matter of waiting for the results.
Because researchers know that DNA tests for HPV are much more accurate with cell samples taken from inside the vagina, it’s easier for women to get much more accurate results. For men, though, there are still some options when it comes to taking an at-home HPV test, especially since most doctor’s offices don’t offer any alternative testing.
Depending on the chosen testing kit, men have the options of collecting HPV DNA test samples from their mouth, penis, or anus. With oral and anal collection kits, you’ll need to swab the inside of these areas to collect cells for testing.
If you choose to collect a DNA sample from your penis, you’ll use a brush to swab the outside of the entire penis in an effort to pick up enough DNA for testing.
Where Can I Get A DNA Testing Kit For HPV?
Because DNA testing kits for HPV are relatively new to consumers, this isn’t the kind of test that you’ll find at a drug store or department store.
Most DNA testing kits that specifically test for DNA are found online, offered by a small handful of companies. One of the biggest marketed benefits of ordering an HPV test online is that having a test sent directly to your doorstep helps keep your personal health private.
You should know that while there are many different kinds of DNA tests that you can purchase online and use to find out all kinds of information about your genetic makeup, it is important that you find an HPV DNA kit that specifically tests for HPV. DNA tests that can tell you more about your ancestors — such as AncestryDNA or Family Tree DNA — don’t use the same technology and methods as HPV DNA test kits.
This means that not only will these test kits not test for HPV, but they won’t be able to use your skin swab sample, either.
Other testing companies that offer medical results based on your DNA still don’t necessarily test for HPV. That means just because a test offers wellness information, you shouldn’t expect that test to automatically have HPV DNA testing.
Just like ancestry DNA tests, the kinds of at-home DNA testing kits that offer information about your personal health — such as 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry test, or MayoClinic’s GeneGuide — can’t use your HPV sample because it’s not the kind of DNA sample their technology requires. When it comes to medical wellness DNA kits, take the time to ensure that the kit you purchase specifically covers HPV DNA testing.
If you’re unsure about taking an at-home DNA test for HPV, there’s still always the option of having an HPV DNA test performed at your doctor’s office. You’ll want to call ahead and speak with your doctor’s office to determine if this is a test your medical provider offers, and why or why not.
They may have additional insight as to what kind of HPV testing would work best for you depending on your personal health history.
How Much Does A DNA Testing Kit For HPV Cost?
Many people consider taking an at-home DNA test for HPV because cost can come in far under the expense of a doctor’s appointment.
In fact, many popular at-home HPV DNA tests range between $50 and $90, making it a relatively affordable alternative for people who don’t have insurance coverage or for people who still pay large portions of their medical bills even with insurance.
In most cases, insurance companies do not provide coverage for HPV DNA test kits, because they consider them non-medically necessary. One HPV testing company — Nurx — does offer to work with insurance providers to help you cover the entire cost of an HPV test; according to Nurx’s policies, if you can’t get insurance coverage or don’t have insurance you can still purchase the test kit for $69.
If you feel that having an HPV DNA test kit is medically necessary, you should speak with your doctor about having this kind of screening done, so that an official medical request for coverage can be submitted to your insurance provider through your doctor’s office.
While it may feel frustrating to know that most insurance companies won’t offer coverage for at-home HPV DNA testing kits, some testing companies say that’s a good thing. That’s because without involving insurance and paying out of pocket, you won’t be denied from purchasing and taking a test.
Some at-home DNA test takers also believe that keeping insurance companies out of the DNA testing market ensures that your results can’t be used against you in the future to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
What Are The Best DNA Test For HPV?
When it comes to picking out a DNA test for HPV, there are several popular, reliable companies that may work well for you.
Most HPV DNA test kits for at-home use are marketed towards women, though some also offer screening for men. When you’re choosing your test, be sure that it’s going to analyze your DNA sample for the kinds of HPV you’re worried about, and that it provides screening for your gender.
Here are several popular HPV DNA tests that you may come across:
- Nurx: Nurx offers two main women’s health services: birth control and HPV testing. The company’s at-home HPV kits can be covered by some insurance companies, though for people without insurance or who don’t want to deal with the hassle of insurance coverage, the HPV testing kits can be purchased for $69. One perk of Nurx’s service is that a medical representative with the company will directly discuss your results with you within seven days of receiving your HPV test.
- My Lab’s HPV Test: My Lab’s test is specifically for women over the age of 30, and the company does not offer HPV tests for men. This FDA-approved kit tests for 14 of the high-risk strains of HPV, and any test kit user who has a HPV-positive result receives a complimentary phone consultation with a company-affiliated medical professional. My Lab’s HPV test kits cost $79.
- EverlyWell: EverlyWell’s at-home HPV test screens for 14 high-risk kinds of HPV. The company’s tests are only for women, though it also offers a variety of sexual health screening kits for men. Results from each test are reviewed by a doctor before being sent to you, so that you know you can trust the results. EverlyWell’s Female HPV test costs $89.
- SelfCollect: Like some other HPV tests, SelfCollect’s at-home test kit is for women over the age of 30, and there are also versions for men of all ages. This test screens for 14 high-risk strains of HPV, and the company has trained STD counselors who will help you discuss your results and treatment options in the case of HPV-positive results. SelfCollect’s test cost $89.
- Let’s Get Checked: Only women can purchase an HPV test from brand Let’s Get Checked. This company’s tests cost $89 and test for 12 different high-risk strains of HPV. Results are delivered within five days of your sample arriving at the company’s lab, and a team of medical experts is available around the clock to discuss your results.
- Private iDNA: The testing kits provided by Private iDNA are available to both men (through urine samples) and women (through vaginal swabs) for around $50. Private iDNA’s HPV testing primarily looks for 14 of the most common high-risk strains of HPV, and the company ensures you’ll have results within five days of your sample arriving at its lab.
How Long Will It Take To Get The Results From The DNA Test?
Just like any medical test, waiting for the results of a HPV DNA test can feel like it’s taking forever.
But, unlike many at-home DNA test kits that show ancestry and wellness information, most HPV DNA test kits can have results back to you in a short amount of time. On average, reviews of at-home HPV DNA test kits show that processing takes between five and seven days from the time the company’s laboratory receives your sample.
From there, the analysis may take a few more days, meaning you could have the results of your HPV DNA test within 10 days to two weeks.
If you choose to have an HPV DNA test administered at a doctor’s office, lab analysis can take between two and four weeks depending on what lab facility your doctor’s office uses and how long it takes your doctor to review your results. Compared to a doctor’s office HPV test, or even the traditional pap smear test for HPV, at-home HPV DNA tests can often give you results a few days faster, or around the same time.
One perk of at-home HPV DNA testing is that people who use these services like having definitive results; for some people who choose to have HPV testing done at a doctor’s office, their medical provider won’t contact them unless there’s a detected issue or cell abnormality. If you’re not a fan of “no news means good news,” an at-home DNA test may be in your favor.
How Do I Interpret The Results From A DNA Test For HPV?
How the results of your HPV DNA test appear greatly depends on the at-home test kit you choose.
Most test kits will walk you through the different kinds of HPV that they screened for, and identify any strains of the virus that were present in your sample.
Whether you choose to have high-risk, low-risk, or both versions of an HPV DNA test done, you need to know that just by having those strains present in your cell sample doesn’t mean that you’ll develop a form of cancer or that you need to panic about seeking out treatment for certain kinds. Your HPV DNA test results will explain the different kinds of HPV and their risks, and then may make suggestions about sharing the results with a trusted health care provider.
If you choose instead to have an HPV DNA test done at your doctor’s office, you can expect your health care provider to explain the results of the test. One of the benefits of having this test done with your regular doctor is that you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and go over the results over the phone or in person, which can be a big benefit if a positive test for HPV has you wondering what to do next.
How Accurate Is DNA Testing For HPV?
Because DNA tests for HPV are specifically looking for the signatures of any HPV virus, they’re considered pretty accurate.
In fact, some tests claim to have as high as 99 percent accuracy when it comes to detecting certain strains of HPV DNA. And, these tests are often FDA-approved, meaning that they meet federal standards for safety and at-home use.
You should know that by taking any at-home test, it’s possible to get less-than-great results based on the quality of your DNA sample. For example, by not following the guidelines or best swabbing practices, it’s possible to not collect enough vaginal, oral, penile, or anal cells for researchers to make a definitive conclusion about the presence of HPV.
If this happens, the testing kit company will contact you to follow up, and recommend next steps.
When it comes to HPV DNA testing in doctor’s offices, the science has been around for years and is considered highly accurate. Some researchers have offered up the recommendation that HPV DNA testing for women over 25 can be used in place of a pap smear because it can provide more substantial results than the traditional internal exam.
As more and more is known about HPV, you can expect that DNA testing for this group of viruses can only get more accurate and widespread to help millions of people understand their HPV status and health risks.