Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is human
Human papillomavirus (also called HPV) causes a
common infection that one person can give to another person during sex. There
are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause genital warts. Other types of HPV
are connected with cancer of the cervix.
You may not know that your cervix is infected
with HPV until a Pap test shows abnormal cells. When you have a Pap test (or
"smear"), the doctor scrapes some cells from your cervix and looks at them under
Who should have a
test for HPV?
An abnormal Pap test doesn't mean that you have
a disease of the cervix. But when your Pap test isn't normal, your doctor may
want you to get a test for HPV.
The doctor may use the HPV test results to help
decide if you should have a colposcopy exam. (A colposcope is a special
magnifying lens that is used to look at your cervix.) Or your doctor may want
you to have Pap tests every few months, or even some other
How does the
doctor test for HPV?
The doctor rubs a small swab against your cervix
and puts the swab in a tube of special liquid. This tube goes to a lab. If the
lab finds HPV in the liquid, your doctor will know what HPV type you
What do the test
If the test shows that you don't have HPV
infection, you probably don't have a precancerous change on your cervix. A
precancerous change is a cell change that might lead to cancer (but it might
not). Your doctor may want you to get another Pap test in 4 to 6 months, just to
keep watching for a problem.
If the HPV test shows that you do have HPV on
your cervix, your doctor may want you to have a colposcopic exam. Many women
with HPV infection have an abnormal colposcopic exam.
If you do have HPV infection, your doctor may
want you to have a biopsy. The doctor will cut a small bit of tissue from your
cervix and check it for signs of cancer.
HPV is an infection that may last for a long
time. If you have it, you'll always need to have regular and frequent Pap tests,
to keep watching for signs of cancer. Your doctor may want you to have Pap tests
every 4 to 6 months to check the status of the HPV infection.