Cervical Cancer is most treatable when it is diagnosed and treated early. Problems found can usually be treated, depending on their severity and on the woman’s age, past medical history, and other test results. Most women who get routine cervical cancer screening and follow up as told by their provider can find problems before cancer even develops. Prevention is always better than treatment.
Other HPV cancers are also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early. Although there is no routine screening test for these cancers, you should visit your doctor regularly for checkups.
Your doctor might recommend the HPV test if:
Your Pap test was abnormal, showing atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
You’re age 30 or older
The HPV test is available only for women; no HPV test yet exists to detect the virus in men. However, men can be infected with HPV and pass the virus along to their sex partners.
What is a HPV Test?
The HPV test is a screening test for cervical cancer, but the test doesn’t tell you whether you have cancer. Instead, the test detects the presence of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, in your system. Certain types of HPV — including types 16 and 18 — increase your cervical cancer risk.
Knowing whether you have a type of HPV that puts you at high risk of cervical cancer means that you and your doctor can better decide on the next steps in your health care. Those steps might include follow-up monitoring, further testing, or treatment of abnormal or precancerous cells.
Pap- HPV Test:
HPV spreads through sexual contact and is very common in young women, so, frequently, the test results will be positive. However, HPV infections often clear on their own within a year or two. Cervical changes that lead to cancer take several years — often 10 years or more — to develop. For these reasons, you might follow a course of watchful waiting instead of undergoing treatment for cervical changes resulting from an HPV infection.
A combination Pap-HPV test is performed in your doctor’s office and takes only a few minutes. You’ll lie on your back on an exam table with your knees bent, your doctor will gently insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum holds the walls of the vagina apart and a flat scraping device called a spatula or a soft brush is used to take samples of your cervical cells. This doesn’t hurt, and you may not even feel the sample being taken.
Results of your HPV test are given as positive or negative
Positive HPV test:A positive test result means that you have a type of high-risk HPV that’s linked to cervical cancer. It doesn’t mean that you have cervical cancer now, but it’s a warning sign that cervical cancer could develop in the future. Your doctor will probably recommend a follow-up test in a year to see if the infection has cleared or to check for signs of cervical cancer.
Negative HPV test: A negative test result means that you don’t have any of the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
Depending on your test results, your doctor may recommend one of the following as a next step:
Normal monitoring:If you’re over age 30, your HPV test is negative and your Pap test normal, you’ll follow the generally recommended schedule for repeating both tests in five years.
Colposcopy: In this follow-up procedure, your doctor uses a special magnifying lens (colposcope) to more closely examine your cervix.
Biopsy:In this procedure, sometimes done in conjunction with colposcopy, your doctor takes a sample of cervical cells (biopsy) to be examined more closely under a microscope.
Removal of abnormal cervical cells:To prevent abnormal cells from developing into cancerous cells, your doctor may suggest a procedure to remove the areas of tissue that contain the abnormal cells.
Seeing a specialist: If your Pap test or HPV test results are abnormal, your health care provider will probably refer you to a gynecologist for a colposcopic exam. If test results show that you might have cancer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating cancers of the female genital tract (gynecologic oncologist) for treatment.