Human Papillomavirus Testing
En Español (Spanish Version)

This is a test to detect human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus spread by sexual contact. Certain types of HPV increase your risk of getting 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 back of the vagina. Currently, there is no test to screen men for this condition.


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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.

Possible Complications
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 side. 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 walls of the cervix. The swab will then be sent to the lab. This test is most often performed at the same time you are having a Pap smear.

How Long Will It Take?
This test takes less than five minutes.

Will It Hurt?
There is no pain associated with this test.

Results of the HPV test may take two to three weeks. Your doctor will talk to you about your results. Depending on the results, you may need more tests or treatments.

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
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR . 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Genital HPV infections—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated March 18, 2012. Accessed May 30, 2013.

HPV and men—fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated February 23, 2012. Accessed May 30, 2013.

Human papillomavirus testing. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Updated December 2010. Accessed May 30, 2013.

Last Reviewed May 2013

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