HPV Test - Why & How

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

Your doctor might recommend the HPV test if:

  • Your Pap test was abnormal, showing atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
  • You’re age 30 or older

Test Sample

A sampling of cells from the cervical area

Test Preparation

  • It is recommended that you do not douche or use tampons or vaginal creams, deodorants, or medications for 2 days before the test.
  • Some health practitioners may request that you refrain from sex for 24 to 48 hours before the test.
  • Reschedule the test if you are having your period (menstruating).
  • You may be asked to empty your bladder before the examination.

Results

PV test results and Pap test results go hand-in-hand when determining a woman’s risk for cervical cancer.

Co-testing Results What Results Might Mean Recommended Follow Up
HPV test negative, Pap test normal Cervical cancer risk is low at the present time. Repeat co-testing in 5 years (or Pap test alone in 3 years)
HPV test positive, Pap test normal Cervical cells are infected with a high-risk type of HPV, but no abnormalities found in cervical cells. Option 1: Repeat co-testing in 12 months
Option 2: Test for presence of HPV-16 or HPV-18
– If HPV-16 and/or HPV-18 present, colposcopy recommended
– If HPV-16 and/or HPV-18 not present, repeat co-testing in 12 months
HPV test negative, Pap test result unclear (ASCUS) No HPV infection; changes in cervical cells may be the result of infection, inflammation, or hormonal changes and are likely to clear up without treatment. Repeat co-testing in 3 years
HPV test positive, Pap test result unclear (ASCUS) Cervical cells are infected with a high-risk type of HPV. The infection is the likely cause of abnormalities in your cervical cells. Colposcopy to examine cervical cells under magnification
HPV test negative, Pap test abnormal (low-grade changes) No HPV infection; cause of abnormal cervical cells unknown Option 1: Repeat co-testing in 12 months
Option 2: Colposcopy to examine cervical cells under magnification
HPV test positive, Pap test abnormal (low-grade changes) Cervical cells are infected with a high-risk type of HPV, which is the likely cause of abnormal cell growth. Colposcopy to examine cervical cells under magnification and treatment of precancerous growths, if present
Men
The HPV test is available only to women; no HPV test yet exists to detect the virus in men. However, men can be infected with HPV and pass the virus along to their sex partners.
* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.