What is HPV (Human papillomavirus)?HPV is a common virus that can increase your risk of developing an abnormal pap smear and/ or cervical cancer. There are two groups of HPV: the low-risk which is harmless and can cause warts; and the high-risk which associated with cervical cancer. This virus can affect anyone, male or female, who is sexually active. Most people with HPV show no sign of infection, and don’t know that they’re infected.
How do we test for this virus?
During your pelvic exam, your provider will thoroughly examine your genital area for any abnormalities, and when appropriate will order HPV testing of your pap smear. The test only looks for the high-risk group, since it is the one that increases your risk of cervical cancer.
When do we test for the virus?
HPV testing is only recommended as a routine test for women age 30 and older. If your test is negative, then it should be repeated in two to three years or when you change partners between routine exams. Testing positive increases your risk of developing cervical cancer. A follow up to a positive HPV test can include more frequent pap smear, and/ or a colposcopy with biopsy.
Why don’t you test women younger than age 30 for HPV?
In women younger than 30, their cervix is still maturing, therefore can repair itself more rapidly and clear the virus during its repair, without any intervention from us. However if they do have an abnormal pap smear, we will test for HPV if it is appropriate.