Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test
human papillomavirus (HPV) test is done to check for a
high-risk HPV infection in women. HPV is a
sexually transmitted infection (STI). An HPV test checks
for the genetic material (DNA) of the human papillomavirus. Like
Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells
collected from the
There are many types of HPV. Some
warts that you can see or feel. Other types do not
cause any symptoms. Most people do not know they have an HPV infection.
This test will show whether a high-risk type of HPV is present. In
women, high-risk types of HPV (such as types 16, 18, 31, and 45) cause changes
in the cells of the
cervix that can be seen as abnormal changes on a Pap
test. Abnormal cervical cell changes may resolve on their own without
treatment. But some untreated cervical cell changes can progress to serious
abnormalities and may lead to
cervical cancer over time if they are not treated.
To learn more about treatment of abnormal cervical cell changes
seen on a Pap test, see the topic
Abnormal Pap Test.
Although HPV is found
in both men and women, this test is not used on men. The HPV test is used to detect only high-risk types of HPV. Your doctor may diagnose genital warts that are seen during a physical exam. This test is
not used to diagnose genital warts caused by low-risk types of HPV.
An HPV test is done to:
The HPV test may be done at the same time as the Pap test.
The results of this test can help doctors decide if further tests or treatments
are needed. To learn more, see the topic
Before an HPV test, do not douche, use
tampons, or use vaginal medicines for at least 48 hours.
be asked to empty your bladder just before the test, both for your own comfort
and to help with the exam.
Talk to your doctor about any
concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be
done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of
this test, fill out the
medical test information formmedical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
An HPV test can be done in a doctor's
office or clinic by:
For this test, you need to remove your clothes below the
waist and drape a paper or cloth covering around your waist. You will then lie
on your back on an examination table with your feet raised and supported by
stirrups. This allows your doctor to examine your vagina and genital
Your health professional will insert an instrument called a
speculum into your vagina. The
speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal walls,
allowing the inside of the vagina and the cervix to be examined.
Your health professional will then use a cotton swab or a small brush to
collect several samples of cells from the cervix. Cells are collected from the
visible part of the cervix as well as cells from inside the opening of the
cervix (endocervical canal). The samples are then placed in collection tubes
and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
An HPV test can also be
done on a cell sample taken during your Pap test if a technique called a
liquid-based Pap test was used. For a liquid-based Pap test, cells are
collected by rotating a plastic brush on the cervix. The samples are then
placed in a jar of solution and sent to a lab for examination. If you have this
type of Pap test and it shows abnormal cells, an HPV test may be done later on
the same sample.
You may feel some discomfort when the
speculum is inserted, especially if your vagina is irritated and tender or if
it is narrow. You may also feel pulling or pressure when the sample of cervical
cells is being collected.
There is very little chance of a problem from an
HPV test. You may worry or feel frightened if you need more testing.
human papillomavirus (HPV) test is done to check for a high-risk HPV infection in women. HPV test results are generally available in 1 to 2
High-risk HPV is not found.
High-risk HPV is found. If high-risk HPV is
found, you may have a higher chance of having precancerous cervical cell
changes. Further testing—including repeat Pap or HPV tests,
cervical biopsy—may be recommended by your doctor,
depending on your medical history and the results of this test.
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Other Works Consulted
American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists (2005, reaffirmed 2009). Human papillomavirus. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 61.
Obstetrics and Gynecology,
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis:
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
June 21, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Genesis HealthCare System | 1-800-322-4762