Facts about HPV and cervical cancer
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a common virus. Eight out of 10 people get it at some point in their lives. High-risk types of HPV that cause cervical cancer are spread through sex or intimate skin-to-skin contact. HPV can “hide” in cervical cells for a long period of time and not be detected. There are no warning signs for HPV.
Pap tests cannot detect HPV directly. A lab technician looks at a sample of cervical cells under a microscope for signs of abnormal changes, which are caused by the virus. While the Pap can identify many women in need of treatment, it is not foolproof.
If a woman has HPV it doesn’t mean she will get cancer. Most women fight off the virus before it causes any problems.
Who should have the HPV test?
Cervical cancer is less of a risk in women younger than 30. Thus, in women under 30, medical experts suggest it be done when the Pap is not clearly abnormal, but not clearly normal either. Once a woman reaches the age of 30, the HPV test is approved for routine use, as the same time as the Pap, for every woman.
Source: Digene Corporation. For more information visit www.thehpvtest.org.