The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus. There are many types of HPV. Some types cause the common skin wart. Other types cause genital warts, which can be spread by sexual contact. Some types can increase the risk for cervical and anal cancer. Having one type of HPV does not lead to having another type.
Many women who have HPV may not know that they are infected until it is found with a Pap test. Your doctor uses this test to look for abnormal cells on your cervix. If you have had an abnormal Pap test, your doctor may recommend that you have an HPV test.
Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells collected from the cervix. If the test finds that you have the types of HPV that might lead to cancer, your doctor may suggest more tests. This does not mean that you will develop cancer; it means that you may have an increased risk. Abnormal cell changes caused by HPV often go away on their own. If the changes do not go away, they can be treated. But because HPV can stay inside the body, the abnormal cervical cells sometimes come back. This is why it is important to follow up with your doctor and have regular Pap tests.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: March 20, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kevin C. Kiley, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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