HPV or Pap Test

Ask the Expert

Q:

If I have a regular Pap test, do I also need an HPV test? I thought the Pap test covered HPV.


A:

The Pap test, which is a smear of cervical cancer cells examined under a microscope, does not look for HPV. Instead, it identifies changes in cells in the cervix caused by HPV that could eventually lead to cancer. The HPV test uses molecular technology to detect the presence of cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cellular changes.

That's why most major medical organizations recommend that women 30 and older, women whose bodies should have already fought off the virus and who have the highest risk of developing cervical cancer, receive both tests. Up to 25 percent of younger women will test positive for HPV because it is a newly acquired infection, and their bodies' immune systems have not yet fought off the virus. Studies find that the two together identify between 95 and 100 percent of the more serious types of cervical cellular changes, including cancer.

So, if you are 30 and older, you should get an HPV test along with your Pap test. If you're younger than 30, you only need the HPV test if your Pap test is inconclusive or "borderline" for cellular abnormalities.

ADVERTISEMENT

When to Ask About Cancer and Metastatic Bone Disease

Watch this video to learn when to ask your health care provider about metastatic bone disease

Created With Support

Why the FDA Is Warning Pregnant Women Not to Use Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Here's what you need to know about the new warning against nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs after 20 weeks of pregnancy

Pregnancy & Postpartum

‘All You Want Is to Be Believed’: The Impacts of Unconscious Bias in Health Care

Latino and Black patients are less likely to receive pain medications or get referred for advanced care than white patients with the same complaints

Your Health