At GP London, we carry out HPV screening tests for women. The HPV or Human Papillomavirus test detects HPV level in the body. This viral infection can cause cancerous cells, cancer or genital warts.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common STI. This STI is usually harmless and self-resolves, but some HPV types may cause cancer or genital warts. Over 100 HPV types affect people; while some can lead to infections, others cause non-cancerous skin warts affecting the feet and hands.
About 40 HPV types affect the genitals, and they fall into two categories- those that increase the risk for cancer (high-risk HPV), such as cervical, vulvar, anal, and some neck and head cancers, and the low-risk HPV types.
The low-risk HPV types include HPV 11 and 6, which may cause non-cancerous genital warts. The most common high-risk HPV types that cause cervical cancer include HPV 18 and 16.
HPV usually spreads from sexual direct skin contact with an infected person. You can contract HPV when your anus, vulva, vagina, cervix or penis touches an infected person's genital, mouth, throat or skin during sexual intercourse. HPV also spreads when the penis of an infected person enters the mouth, anus and vagina.
HPV is among the most common STDs, but it usually causes no concern because the infection clears without treatment. While most sexually active people get HPV at least once in their lifetime, they remain unaware of the infection.
Most infected people show no symptoms, and neither do they develop health issues. In some cases, HPV causes genital warts and some HPV strains can cause cancer.
HPV testing in women requires a sample taken during cervical screening. Most practitioners combine the results of HPV tests and cervical screening cytology, a cell examination under a microscope.
This allows a fast investigation for those with a high risk of cervical cancer and reassures those with a low risk of HPV infection. Combined testing also reduces unnecessary colposcopies and screening for women with borderline or mild cervical screening cytology or those who have treated abnormal cervical cells.
The medical practitioner will analyse the cell sample in the lab for high-risk HPV infections. If you have infected cervical cells, the following may be necessary for treatment.
This treatment applies to women whose cervical screening results show mild or borderline dyskaryosis. The cell sample used during cervical screening can also aid in detecting high-risk HPV infections.
If the HPV test is positive, the doctor may recommend a colposcopy, but if you have a negative HPV test, you will have your routine screening after three or five years, depending on your age and country of residence.
HPV testing is necessary because it allows early detection of HPV treatment and timely treatment. Women with mild to borderline dyskaryosis have about a 15 – 20% risk of developing a significant abnormality.
Without HPV testing, even after a screening test shows abnormal cells, the risk of cancer is negligible, but the woman still requires routine screening.
HPV testing can detect if a woman's treatment was successful. Women who have had treatment for cervical abnormalities can be tested to ensure their treatment has worked. This test is usually recommended at the first appointment after treatment, alongside cervical screening by cytology. This appointment is within six months after treatment.
If the test doesn't detect HPV and the screening test is negative, it means treatment successfully removed abnormal cells and the woman should continue with the regular HPV screening schedule. Another cervical screening isn't necessary for at least three years. HPV testing will confirm whether or not if there is a a risk of developing cervical abnormalities in the future.
If HPV infection is present or the screening shows abnormal cells, another colposcopy is necessary for further investigation.
Your doctor may recommend HPV testing and screening if:
No special preparation is necessary for HPV testing. However, due to the swab site for women, the following measures will aid in getting an accurate result.
Your HPV screening will be at the clinic. Some women choose a self-swab, or the doctor will collect their sample with a swab. The sample collection using a swab shouldn't hurt. Most people feel no sensation during the sample collection.
The doctor will swab the urethra and penis for men to collect cell samples, which shouldn't hurt. If you show symptoms, the doctor will take the swab from areas with lesions.
HPV is contagious and can lead to cervical and throat cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 increase the risk of cervical cancer. Identifying the HPV infection you have can help the doctor recommend the right care. You will require follow-up monitoring, further testing and treatment for pre-cancerous cells.
You can ask your provider these questions before your screening.
The healthcare provider may ask you these questions.