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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test

A human papillomavirus (HPV) test is done to check for a high-risk HPV infection in women. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). An HPV test checks for the genetic material (DNA) of the human papillomavirus. Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix camera.gif.

There are many types of HPV. Some types cause warts that you can see or feel. Other types do not cause any symptoms. Most people do not know they have an HPV infection.

This test will show whether a high-risk type of HPV is present. In women, high-risk types of HPV (such as types 16, 18, 31, and 45) cause changes in the cells of the cervix that can be seen as abnormal changes on a Pap test. Abnormal cervical cell changes may resolve on their own without treatment. But some untreated cervical cell changes can progress to serious abnormalities and may lead to cervical cancer over time if they are not treated.

To learn more about treatment of abnormal cervical cell changes seen on a Pap test, see the topic Abnormal Pap Test.

Although HPV is found in both men and women, this test is not used on men. The HPV test is used to detect only high-risk types of HPV. Your doctor may diagnose genital warts that are seen during a physical exam. This test is not used to diagnose genital warts caused by low-risk types of HPV.

Why It Is Done

An HPV test is done to:

  • Check for high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) in women who had a Pap test that showed abnormal cervical cells called atypical squamous cells (ASC). An HPV test can help look for one or more high-risk types of HPV. If an HPV test shows that high-risk types of HPV are present, further testing, such as a colposcopy or cervical biopsy, may be recommended.
  • Check for HPV in women older than age 30 as part of screening for abnormal cervical cells.
  • To help check for abnormal cervical cells after treatment of a high-risk HPV infection.

The HPV test may be done at the same time as the Pap test. The results of this test can help doctors decide if further tests or treatments are needed. To learn more, see the topic Pap Test.

How To Prepare

Before an HPV test, do not douche, use tampons, or use vaginal medicines for at least 48 hours.

You will be asked to empty your bladder just before the test, both for your own comfort and to help with the exam.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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