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16th December 2014

What does a positive HPV test result mean?

If you are a woman over the age of 30, it’s possible your doctor has recommended you get an HPV test with your pap test. Most women who have HPV don’t know it, and generally the body manages to fight the virus away before any health problems emerge. However, HPV can cause cell changes in the cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer. Other related conditions are warts in the genitals or throat, and cancer in the genitals.

The advantage of getting an HPV test with your pap test is practical. When you get an HPV test with your pap test, you only need to repeat your tests after five years if your HPV results are negative, and the pap test is normal. This is because cancer normally takes years to develop after someone gets HPV. On the other hand, regular pap smears need to be done every 3 years.

So what does it mean if you get a positive result in an HPV test? Should you be worried? It’s unlikely that you have to be. Here’s usually what a positive result means:

If you get a positive result for HPV, but your pap test is normal, it is possible your body will manage to fight off the HPV naturally without need for treatment. Since cell changes happen slowly in the cervix, you should get another pap test within a year to make sure you’re fine.

If you get a positive result for HPV, and your pap test is abnormal, it means that you have HPV and that there have been cell changes in your cervix. However, this does not necessarily mean you have cancer. If cell changes are minor, the doctor will investigate to decide on the next steps. If there are major cell changes, it’s possible that the doctor will recommend you start treatment right away.

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