The HPV (human papillomavirus) test is used to screen for high-risk types with HPV infection. HPV is a group of about 100 related viruses, of which 40 types are genital viruses. Most HPV viruses cause infections that usually resolve without treatment within 2 years. Some HPV infections can cause skin and genital warts (condylomata). HPV types 16, 18, 31 and 45 are considered high-risk types of HPV. High-risk types of HPV do not usually cause visible warts, but if untreated, may lead to cancers of the outlet of the womb (cervix) or anus.
An HPV test identifies the DNA (genetic) strands of the HPV infection. Because the test identifies the DNA strands, the test is also referred to as the HPV DNA test. Although HPV is found in both males and females, the HPV test is only used to screen for cervical cancer in females. This test is recommended for females:
With an abnormal Pap test.
After treatment of an abnormal Pap test.
Aged 30 and older.
After treatment of a high-risk HPV infection.
The HPV test may be done at the same time as a Pap test in females over the age of 30. Both the HPV and Pap test require a sample of cells from the cervix.
PREPARATION FOR TEST
You may be asked to avoid douching, tampons, or vaginal medicines for 48 hours before the HPV test. You will be asked to urinate before the test.
For the HPV test, you will need to lie on an exam table with your feet in stirrups. A spatula will be inserted into the vagina. The spatula will be used to swab the cervix for a cell and mucus sample. The sample will be further evaluated in a lab under a microscope.
Normal: High-risk HPV is not found.
Ranges for normal findings may vary among different laboratories and hospitals. You should always check with your doctor after having lab work or other tests done to discuss the meaning of your test results and whether your values are considered within normal limits.
MEANING OF TEST
An abnormal HPV test means that high-risk HPV is found. Your caregiver may recommend further testing.
Your caregiver will go over the test results with you. He or she will and discuss the importance and meaning of your results, as well as treatment options and the need for additional tests, if necessary.
OBTAINING THE RESULTS
It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Ask the lab or department performing the test when and how you will get your results.