There are a few reasons why your healthcare provider may recommend an HPV test. If you are 21-29 years old, and HPV test could be recommended if your Pap test is abnormal or inconclusive. If you are 30 or older, HPV testing may be recommended, even if your Pap test is normal.

HPV: What You Should Know

HPV is a very common virus. In fact, there are over 100 types of HPV. But only certain types cause cancer. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never know it because HPV usually has no signs or symptoms. Most of the time, HPV will go away on its own without causing any health problems. But sometimes, HPV does not go away and certain types of HPVcan cause cells to change. If left untreated, over time these changes can lead to cervical cancer.

Why Get an HPV Test if Pap is Normal?

If you ae 30 years or older, your healthcare provider may recommend an HPV test, even if your Pap test is normal. HPV infections are more common in women ages 20 to 25, but cervical cancer is rare in this age group. HPV infections are less common in patients over 30, but the rate of cervical cancer is higher. Your healthcare provider is interested in your HPV status beyond age 30 to understand your risk for cervical cancer. A positive HPV test could indicate that you’re at increased risk for developing cervical cancer. A negative HPV test result means your chances of developing cervical cancer are very low.

What About a Positive HPV Test Result?

Most sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives. Even people with only one sexual partner can get HPV, if their partner has been infected with HPV. Having HPV does not necessarily mean that you or your partner are engaging in sex outside of your relationship. Some HPV types can cause changes to cervical cells quickly, but it can take decades for HPV to progress into cancer. There is no way to know when you got HPV or who gave it to you. A person can have HPV for many years before it is detected.

What You Can Do

Take charge of your cervical health by getting regular Pap tests and follow-up care as recommended by your healthcare provider. The Pap test detects changes on your cervix (caused by HPV) often because they progress to cancer. The addition of HPV testing to your Pap test will determine if you have an HPV type linked to cervical cancer. More than 40 types of HPV have been linked to cancer, so the test can help your healthcare provider decide if additional testing is necessary.

Remember to make and keep your appointments for cervical cancer screening. Follow up on test results and obtain medical care as needed or recommended by your healthcare provider. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.