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What Is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmissible disease. To check the risk of infection in women, a test is conducted. This procedure is done by taking samples of cells from the cervix and checking for the presence of genetic material of the viral strain. While HPV affects both men and women, the test only applies to women and is only used to ascertain high-risk HPV types.

Contrary to common belief, there are several types of HPV, which produce varied symptoms. While some strains cause warts, there are HPV types that don’t have any symptoms at all. As a result, these infected individuals don’t know they have the infection.

An HPV test may be conducted at the same time as a Pap test. Women aged 30 and above screened for abnormal cervical cells may also opt to include a check for HPV. If high-risk HPV is detected, further procedures may be performed, which includes a cervical biopsy or colposcopy.

To prepare for an HPV test, the patient should avoid using tampons, douche or any vaginal medicine at least 48 hours preceding the test. Immediately prior to the HPV test, the patient may also be asked to empty her bladder, for her own comfort. This can also facilitate the exam.

The HPV test is conducted by a gynecologist who will examine the genital area. As the patient lies on her back with her feet raised on the examination table, the doctor will insert a speculum camera to inspect the inside of the vagina and the cervix.

Samples are also collected from the cervix. A cotton swab or a tiny brush may be used to collect cells from the cervix. These samples are placed in tubes and sent to a lab for analysis. A liquid-based Pap test may also be used to collect cell samples for HPV test purposes.