Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size

The New HPV Test You Should Ask Your Doctor About

How effective is it?

Last April, two scientists from the National Cancer Institute, writing in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine about a study of 131,746 women in India, said that "among...women between the ages of 30 and 59 years...a single HPV test performed 15 to 20 years after the median age of first sexual intercourse will detect many easily treatable, persistent infections and precancers while limiting overtreatment." One test, they wrote, "dramatically reduced the incidence of advanced cervical cancer and cervical cancer mortality."

Why improve on the Pap?

This one test has made a huge difference in the health of American women; since the Pap's introduction in the 1940s, cervical cancer rates have been slashed by 70 percent, to 11,270 cases and 4,070 deaths in 2009. But the test has problems. For one, a single Pap can miss up to 50 percent of cell abnormalities (but because these changes usually occur very slowly, chances are great that an abnormality will be picked up on your next test). The Pap can also raise a false alarm when nothing's really wrong: Cervical tissue undergoes surface changes all the time, and these may pop up on your Pap, then disappear on their own. No screen can ever be considered 100 percent perfect, but the Pap/HPV combo comes pretty close. Studies from the U.S. and Europe show if you have negative results on the two tests given together, you can be 99.84 percent assured you won't develop cervical cancer within the next three or more years, says Alan G. Waxman, M.D., M.P.H., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and lead author of the cervical-screening guidelines published by ACOG last December.

Do you still need an annual Pap test?

Actually, since 1987, virtually every medical organization that has issued guidelines on cervical screening has endorsed the idea that after three successive "normals," a healthy, low-risk woman age 30 or over needs to be tested only every two to three years. "The tradition of annual Pap tests is just that, a tradition, and it's not backed up by science," says Debbie Saslow, Ph.D., the American Cancer Society's director of breast and gynecologic cancers. Only women considered at high risk — DES daughters, for example, or those who've had cervical cancer or precancerous lesions — need more frequent tests. (Smoking also ups your risk; if you smoke, ask about extra tests.) Even if you don't have a Pap, though, you should have regular checkups that include breast and pelvic exams, a blood pressure reading, and other tests depending on your age and medical history.

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
Is it menopause or something else?
woman in bathtub
bp app on smartwatch and phone
estrogen gene

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
hot water bottle on stomach
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror