HPV Test

1 What is an HPV Test?

The test that detects the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) – a virus which can lead to the development of cervical cancer, abnormal cervical cancer or genital warts – is called human papillomavirus test.

Your doctor may suggest this kind of test if you are 30 years old or older and if your Pap test was abnormal that shows atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS).

This test is only for women because there is still no way to detect the virus in men but men can be infected with HPV and passes it on to their sex partners.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo HPV test.

HPV test cannot tell you if you have cancer, it can only screen you for cervical cancer and detects if you have HPV which is the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Certain types of HPV such as type 16 and 18 increases your cervical cancer risk. You and your doctor will discuss the next steps that you are going to do if you have a type of HPV that puts you at risk or cervical cancer.

These steps may include further testing, follow-up monitoring or treatment of abnormal or precancerous cells. There is no significant use for women who are under the age of 30 to undergo this kind of test.

HPV is very common in young women and can spread through sexual contact, and also can clear on its own after one or two years.

The cervical changes which can lead to cancer can take about several years but often 10 years to develop and because of this, you might just do watchful waiting resulting in HPV infection.

3 Potential Risks

HPV test carries a risk of false-positive or false-negative results.

False-positive can lead to unnecessary follow-up procedure such as biopsy or colposcopy and this indicates that you have a high-risk type of HPV even if you really don’t have.

False-negative means that the result indicates that you do not have HPV but you really do have it.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

There is no need to prepare before having HPV test but if it is done along with Pap test you can follow these measures such to make both tests accurate:

  • Do not schedule your test if you have a menstrual period so that your doctor can collect a better sample of cells and avoid intercourse.
  • Using creams or jellies, using vaginal medicines or spermicidal foams, or douching two days before the test.

5 What to Expect

Here you can find out what to expect from your HPV test.

A test that collects cells from your cervix to check for the presence of cancer or for abnormalities is called Pap test. This test is mostly done with the HPV test.

The sample of the cells that your doctor will use for the HPV test can also be used for the Pap test or he may collect a second sample from your cervical canal.

You may be asked to undress completely and this test will only take up about a few minutes. You will lie back on a table with knees bent and heels in the stirrups.

A speculum will be inserted into your vagina so it can hold the walls of the vagina apart so your doctor can easily see your cervix.

Sometimes the speculum may feel cold when inserted and this may cause sensations of pressure in your pelvic area.

Using as soft brush and a spatula – a flat scraping device – your doctor will collect samples of your cervical cells. You can go back to your regular activities after this test.

6 Procedure Results

The results will be negative or positive. Positive HPV test indicates that you have a type of high-risk HPV that is connected with cervical cancer but it does not mean you have cervical cancer.

This is just a warning sign that cervical cancer may develop so your doctor may suggest a follow-up to check if the infection is cleared or to check for signs of cervical cancer.

Negative HPV test indicates that you do not have any of the HPV types. Based on the results, your doctor may suggest the following:

  • Normal monitoring for HPV test and Pap test in five years if you are 30 years old, and if your Pap test is normal while your HPV test in negative.
  • Biopsy so your doctor can examine your cervical cells more closely.
  • Colposcopy to closely examine your cervix by using a colposcope which is a magnifying lens.
  • Removal of abnormal cervical cells to prevent abnormal cells from developing into cancerous cells.
  • Seeing a specialist such as a gynecologist for the colposcopic exam if both the HPV and Pap test results are abnormal.

You will be referred to a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in treating cancers of the female genital tract if the test shows that you may have cancer.