Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Unfortunately, it also has some of the most severe risks of any STD, including the potential to cause cancer. That’s why it’s so important to get tested for HPV. Here’s everything you need to know about HPV tests, including how they’re performed, who should get tested, and how Nurx can help you assess your HPV risk without having to visit a doctor.
HPV Testing: The Basics
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An HPV test checks for high-risk strains of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a very slow growing disease, and if caught early is almost always treatable. However, most women do not have symptoms. Finding out whether or not you have HPV is an important step in preventing and treating cervical cancer.
It usually takes having a persistent HPV infection for 10 or more years for pre-cancer or cancer to develop. Routine screening and follow-up is the only way to know for sure whether you have persistent HPV.
Although both men and women can contract and spread HPV, there is no HPV test for men. Currently, only women can be tested for HPV.
Who Should Be Tested for HPV?
HPV testing is recommended every five years for women between the ages of 30 and 65. If you get a positive result or have HPV, suppressed immune system, or certain other health issues, your doctor may recommend more frequent testing.
What Happens During an HPV Test?
It’s best to schedule your HPV test when you’re not on your period. Avoid intercourse, douching, and using any vaginal medicines or spermicidal products for two days before your appointment.
You can either have an HPV test performed at your doctor’s office, or you can take advantage of Nurx’s Home HPV Screening test, which allows you to take a vaginal swab in the comfort of your own home.
The whole process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes!
HPV Test Results
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If your result is negative, that means that no high-risk HPV was found. In most cases, you will not need another screening for five years.
If you get a positive result, that means high-risk HPV was found. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Instead, this result indicates that you’re at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer in the future.
Your doctor will want to monitor your health more closely if your HPV test came back positive. Additional testing may be recommended, including:
- Cervical biopsy: This procedure involves a doctor taking a sample of tissue from your cervix so that it can be examined under a microscope.
- Colposcopy: Your doctor uses a magnifying tool called a colposcope to examine your vagina and cervix during this procedure.
- More frequent HPV testing: You’ll need to get pap smears and HPV tests more often after getting a positive result.