HPV and Pap Tests: 6 Things to Know

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Could you have HPV even if your Pap test was normal?

Yes, you can have HPV but still have a normal Pap test. Changes on your cervix may not show up right away; or they may never appear. For women older than 30 who get a negative result on both the Pap and HPV tests means no cervical changes or HPV were found on the cervix. This means you have a very low chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years.

Can HPV be cured?

There isn't a cure for the HPV virus, but there are treatments for the changes HPV can cause to the cervix. For example, genital warts, which are a sympton of HPV, can be treated. Sometimes, the virus goes away on its own.

What else can cause an abnormal Pap test?

An abnormal result does not mean you have HPV or cervical cancer. Other reasons for an abnormal Pap test result include yeast infections, irritation or hormone changes.

What is the difference between the high-risk and low-risk types of HPV?

Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. These types of HPV are called high-risk. Most often, high-risk HPV causes no health problems and goes away on its own. High-risk HPV cases that don’t go away are the biggest risk factor for cervical cancer. If you have high-risk HPV, your doctor can look for changes on your cervix during Pap tests and decide which treatment plan is best. Be sure to have regular Pap tests so changes can be found early.

How do women get HPV?

HPV is passed by skin-to-skin and genital contact. It may also be passed through hand to genital contact.

Should you get the HPV vaccine?

Two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) can protect girls and young women against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The vaccines work best when given before a person's first sexual contact, when she could be exposed to HPV. Both vaccines are recommended for 11 and 12 year-old girls. But, the vaccines also can be used in girls as young as 9 and in women through age 26 who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger.