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This page is for women who were screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test and an HPV test. Cancer that starts to grow on a womana€™s cervix is called a€?cervical cancer.a€? Cancer can grow on a womana€™s cervix the same way it can grow on other body parts. A virus, called genital human papillomavirus (pap-ah-LOmah-VYE-rus)a€”also called HPVa€”can cause normal cells on your cervix to turn abnormal.
Every year in the United States, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer, but it is the most preventable type of female cancer, with both HPV vaccines and regular screening tests. Some HPV types can cause changes on a womana€™s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time. Most of the time, the bodya€™s immune system fights off HPV naturally within two years-- before HPV causes any health problems. HPV is passed on through genital (skin to skin) contact, most often during vaginal or anal sex.
One important way to prevent cervical cancer is through regular screening with the Pap test. Since cervical cancer often does not cause symptoms until it is advanced, it is important to get screened even when you feel healthy.
Checks your cervix for the virus (HPV) that can cause abnormal cells and lead to cervical cancer. The Pap and HPV tests can find early problems that could lead to cervical cancer over time.
Check for all HPV types a€“The HPV test only checks for specific HPV types that are linked to cervical cancer. Age 21 or older -- for follow-up of an abnormal Pap test result (see "What Does My Pap Test Result Mean?"). Why is the HPV test NOT recommended as part of regular screening for younger women and teens?
HPV is less common in women over the age of 30, who are at increasing risk for cervical cancer. Getting regular Pap tests, even without the HPV test, is still a good way to prevent cervical cancera€”for both younger and older women.
If your Pap test results are unclear or abnormal, you will likely need more tests so your doctor can tell if your cell changes could be related to cancer. If you have an HPV test at the same time as your Pap test, it can be confusing to get both results at the same time.
Even if you do have cell changes, it is unlikely that they are caused by HPV (or related to cervical cancer). Your doctor may need to remove the abnormal cells or follow up with you over time to make sure the cells do not get worse. Most sexually active people get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never know it.
HPV testing is not recommended for men, nor is it recommended for finding HPV on the genitals or in the mouth or throat. Partners who are age 26 or younger should consider HPV vaccination to protect against the types of HPV that most commonly cause health problems in men and women.
The types of HPV found on a womana€™s HPV test can cause cervical cancer; they do not cause genital warts. Having HPV does not mean that you or your partner is having sex outside of your relationship. If your sex partner is female, you should talk to her about the link between HPV and cervical cancer, and encourage her to get a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Does having HPV or abnormal cervical cells affect my chances of getting pregnant or having healthy babies? Condoms may lower your chances of passing HPV to your new partner, if used with every sex act, from start to finish.


Three vaccines are available to prevent the HPV types that cause most cervical cancers as well as some cancers of the anus, vulva (area around the opening of the vagina), vagina, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). To find out where else you can get free or low-cost screening and follow-up care, call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). Cancer (KAN-ser): A disease that starts when cells in the body turn abnormal and begin to grow out of control. Colposcopy (kol-POS-coe-pee): A method your doctor can use to magnify the cervix to see any abnormal cells. HPV or human papillomavirus (pap-ah-LO-mah-VYE-rus): A very common virus that infects the skin cells. Screening test: Getting tested for early signs of disease so the problem can be treated before the disease ever develops. Uterus (YOO-tuh-rus): The uterus, or womb, holds a growing baby and helps push the baby out during labor. The Pap testa€”either alone or with the HPV testa€”is the best way to find early signs of cervical cancer. Most women who get abnormal Pap test results or who have HPV do not get cervical cancera€”as long as they follow their doctora€™s advice for more tests or treatment. When checked, Shutterstock's safe search screens restricted content and excludes it from your search results. Over many years, abnormal cells can turn into cancer if they are not found and treated by your doctor. There are about 40 types of HPV that can infect the genitals or sex organs of men and women. These HPV types can also infect other parts of the body and cause other, less common cancers in men and women.
But the HPV types that can cause genital warts are different from the types that can cause cancer.
It is only when HPV stays on a womana€™s cervix for many years that it can cause cervical cancer. An HPV test can also be used at the same time as the Pap test for women 30 years and older.
Your doctor should offer you an HPV test if you need it and it is available in their practice. But it is not useful to test women under age 30 for HPV, since most HPV that is found in these women will never cause them health problems. HPV is also more likely to signal a health problem for these women, who may have had the virus for many years.
Your doctor may use other words to describe this result, like: equivocal, inconclusive, or ASC-US. This is done using a special lens that makes your cervical cells look bigger (called a colposcopy). But few of them get cervical cancera€”as long as they get the tests and treatments their doctor recommends.
HPV vaccines do not cure existing HPV or related problems (like abnormal cervical cells), but they can protect you from getting new HPV infections in the future. Even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV, if their partner had it when the relationship started.
This means that your partner likely has HPV already, even though your partner may have no signs or symptoms. The type of HPV that is linked to cancer should not affect the health of your future babies. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condoma€”so condoms may not fully protect against HPV. The approved HPV tests on the market are not useful for screening for HPV-related cancers or genital warts in men.


If you got a total hysterectomy for reasons other than cancer, you may not need cervical cancer screening. Your doctor may also use words like a€?equivocala€? or a€?inconclusivea€? to describe this result (see below). Cancer screening tests look for early signs of cancer so you can take steps to avoid ever getting cancer. It can take 10 to 15 years (or more) for cells to change from normal to abnormal, and then into cancer. Doctors may use the HPV test with the Pap test to tell if these women are more likely to get cervical cancer in the future, and if they need to be screened more often. These treatments may be uncomfortable, but they can be done during one visit to your doctor.
Most times, problems that are found can be treated before they ever turn into cervical cancer. Usually, HPV has no signs or symptoms, and the body fights it off naturally before it causes health problems. So an HPV infection that is found today will most likely not be there a year or two from now. But if you need treatment for your cell changes, the treatment could affect your chance of having babies, in rare cases.
If your partner is age 26 years or younger, vaccinations are available to prevent the types of HPV that most commonly cause health problems in men and women.
For this test, your doctor takes cells from your cervix so that they can be looked at with a microscope.
Your doctor will look at the outside of your genitals, or sex organs, to look for problems. Abnormal cells are sometimes called a€?pre-cancera€? because they are not normal, but they are not yet cancer. If you need treatment, ask your doctor if the treatment can affect your ability to get pregnant or have a normal delivery.
Your doctor will also look at and feel your internal organsa€”such as your vagina, cervix, ovaries, and womb.
An HPV test may also be used with the Pap test for women 30 years or older, as part of routine screening.
The more serious changes are often called a€?precancera€? because they are not yet cancer, but they can turn into cancer over time. Since treatment can have risks and side effects, it is best to make sure you really need it. Thata€™s why ita€™s important to go back to your doctor as told, to make sure abnormal cells do not grow back. The vaccines are recommended at age 11 or 12 because they are most effective when given before a persona€™s first sexual contact.
LSIL stands for a€?low-grade squamous intra-epithelial lesionsa€?a€” which means minor cell changes on the cervix.
But you can get vaccinated through age 26, if you did not get all three vaccine doses when you were younger. HSIL stands for a€?high-grade squamous intra-epithelial lesionsa€?a€” which means more serious cell changes.
Go back to your doctor for all appointments and testinga€”to make sure your cell changes do not get worse.
These vaccines may one day become available to women older than 26 years, if they are found to be safe and effective for them.



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