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What is the difference between a Pap Smear and a HPV test?

A Pap Smear requires that you go to your healthcare provider’s office and receive a speculum exam. This enables your healthcare provider to collect cells from inside of your cervix, which are then observed under a microscope by a cytologist or pathologist. Abnormal cervical cells indicate a potential for cervical cancer and require close follow up by a clinician.

A HPV test only requires that a swab sample is collected from inside the vagina, close to but not in the cervix. The sample is screened for the high risk strains of HPV that typically cause cervical cancer.

If high risk HPV DNA is present, a pap smear or a colposcopy is often recommended; these tests are used to determine whether there are cervical cell changes, and if they are discovered, the next step is to begin treatment.

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