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HPV DNA test

The HPV DNA test is used to check for high-risk HPV infection in women.

HPV infection around the genitals is common. It can be spread during sex.

  • Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer and other cancers. These are called high-risk types.
  • Low-risk types of HPV may cause genital warts in the vagina, cervix, and on the skin. The virus and warts spread when you have sex. The HPV-DNA test is generally not recommended for detecting low-risk HPV infections.

How the Test is Performed

The HPV DNA test may be done during a Pap smear.

You lie on a table and place your feet in stirrups. The health care provider places an instrument (called a speculum) into the vagina and opens it slightly to see inside. Cells are gently collected from the cervix area. The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus) that opens at the top of the vagina.

The cells are sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope. This examiner checks to see if the cells contain genetic material (called DNA) from types of HPV that cause cancer. More tests may be done to determine the exact type of HPV.

How to Prepare for the Test

Avoid the following for 24 hours before the test:

  • Douching
  • Having intercourse
  • Taking a bath
  • Using tampons

Empty your bladder just before the test.

How the Test will Feel

The exam may cause some discomfort. Some women say it feels like menstrual cramps.

You may also feel some pressure during the exam.

You may bleed a little bit after the test.

Why the Test is Performed

High-risk types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer or anal cancer. The HPV-DNA test is done to determine if you are infected with one of these high-risk types.

Your doctor may order an HPV-DNA test:

  • If you have a certain type of abnormal Pap test result
  • Along with a Pap smear to screen women age 30 and older for cervical cancer

It's important to note: The HPV-DNA test does not replace a Pap smear. A Pap smear is the main screening test for cervical cancer.

The HPV test results help your doctor decide if further testing or treatment is needed.

Normal Results

A normal result means you do not have a high-risk type of HPV.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result means you have a high-risk type of HPV.

High-risk types of HPV may cause cervical cancer and cancer of the throat, tongue, anus, or vagina.

Most of the time, cervical cancer related to HPV is due to the following types:

  • HPV-16 (very high risk type)
  • HPV-18 (very high risk type)
  • HPV-31
  • HPV-33
  • HPV-35
  • HPV-45
  • HPV-52
  • HPV-58

Other high-risk types of HPV are less common.

Alternative Names

Human papilloma virus - testing; Abnormal Pap smear - HPV testing; LSIL-HPV testing, Low-grade dysplasia - HPV testing; HSIL - HPV testing; High-grade dysplasia - HPV testing; HPV testing in women

References

Cervical cancer in adolescents: screening, evaluation, and management. Committee Opinion No. 463. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116:469-472.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for cervical cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2012;156:880-91.

Wang ZX, Peiper SC. HPV detection techniques. In: Bibbo M, Wilbur DC, eds. Comprehensive Cytopathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 38.

Review Date 12/7/2014

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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