Human Papillomavirus Testing
(HPV Testing; Testing, HPV; Testing, Human Papillomavirus)
This is a test to detect human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus spread by sexual contact. Certain types of HPV increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. HPV is also the cause of genital warts.
The HPV test is approved to detect some types of HPV on a woman's cervix. The cervix is located in deepest part of the vagina. Currently, there is no test to screen men for this condition.
Reasons for the Test
The HPV test is done if you are 21 years or older and have abnormal Pap smear results. If you are 30 years or older, your doctor may also use the HPV test along with the Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer.
There are no major complications associated with this test.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
Do not schedule the test during your menstrual period.
To be more comfortable, urinate before the test.
Description of Test
You will lie on your back. Your feet are placed in foot rests. You will be asked to let your legs fall open to the sides. A medical instrument called a speculum will be gently inserted into the vagina. It opens the vagina so that the cervix can be viewed. A swab will be inserted into the vagina. The swab will be used to wipe the surface of the cervix. The swab will be examined under a microscope. This test is most often performed at the same time you are having a Pap smear.
Call Your Doctor
After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Foul vaginal odor, pain, or unusual vaginal discharge
- Severe abdominal pain or swelling
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Sexuality and U—The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
The Sex Information & Education Council of Canada
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
Genital HPV infection—fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm. Updated February 23, 2015. Accessed May 28, 2015.
HPV and men—fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/STD/hpv/STDFact-HPV-and-men.htm#testforwomen. Updated January 28, 2015. Accessed May 28, 2015.
Human papillomavirus testing. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/human-papillomavirus-hpv/diagnosis-tests.html. Updated January 2014. Accessed May 28, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.