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HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test

How It Is Done

An HPV test can be done in a doctor's office or clinic by:

For this test, you need to remove your clothes below the waist and drape a paper or cloth covering around your waist. You will then lie on your back on an examination table with your feet raised and supported by stirrups. This allows your doctor to examine your vagina and genital area.

Your health professional will insert an instrument called a speculum camera.gif into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal walls, allowing the inside of the vagina and the cervix to be examined.

Your health professional will then use a cotton swab or a small brush to collect several samples of cells from the cervix. Cells are collected from the visible part of the cervix as well as cells from inside the opening of the cervix (endocervical canal). The samples are then placed in collection tubes and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

An HPV test can also be done on a cell sample taken during your Pap test if a technique called a liquid-based Pap test was used. For a liquid-based Pap test, cells are collected by rotating a plastic brush on the cervix. The samples are then placed in a jar of solution and sent to a lab for examination. If you have this type of Pap test and it shows abnormal cells, an HPV test may be done later on the same sample.

How It Feels

You may feel some discomfort when the speculum is inserted, especially if your vagina is irritated and tender or if it is narrow. You may also feel pulling or pressure when the sample of cervical cells is being collected.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from an HPV test. You may worry or feel frightened if you need more testing.

After the procedure

  • You may have a small amount of vaginal bleeding or gray-green discharge after this test, and you may want to use a panty liner to protect your clothes from any spotting.
  • Do not have sex until your doctor tells you it is safe to do so.

Results

A human papillomavirus (HPV) test is done to check for a high-risk HPV infection in women. HPV test results are generally available in 1 to 2 weeks.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Normal:

High-risk HPV is not found.

Abnormal:

High-risk HPV is found. If high-risk HPV is found, you may have a higher chance of having precancerous cervical cell changes. Further testing—including repeat Pap or HPV tests, colposcopy, or cervical biopsy—may be recommended by your doctor, depending on your medical history and the results of this test.

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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