What is an HPV Test?

Learn the facts about human papillomavirus (HPV), the significance of the HPV test and how it is done, as well as how it differs from the pap smear.

Human papillomavirus or HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease and is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer although the occurrence of this virus may not automatically be attributed to cancer. When a woman reach a certain age, usually 30, it is advisable to undergo the HPV test to check the prevalence of the virus in the human body and undertake necessary medical care.

HPV Testing vs. Pap Smear

The HPV test is also a breakthrough in detecting cervical cancer versus the traditional pap smear. HPV tests detect 95% of cervical cancer cases while pap smear is only able to identify the occurrence of cancer cells in 55% of cases. Although the result of the HPV test is reliable, it is still conducted in parallel with pap smear to make necessary comparisons.

The cost of an HPV test is relatively higher than that of a pap smear, with the latter costing about $20 while the former is at $90. It is also advisable for women who have had HVP vaccinations to still undergo the test when they reach the pre-menopausal stage because chances of cervical cancer are greater at this point. The HPV exam involves two processes such as testing and typing wherein a DNA strand is extracted from the cervix area to identify possible types of HVP viruses present therein. Among the types of HPV virus are 16, 18, 31, 33, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66, 68, and 73. When the body’s immune system is weak, it is more probable to develop complications, which heightens the severity of the cancer.

Before undergoing the HPV test, it is necessary to do pre-laboratory routines such as emptying the bladder or using tampons for vaginal discharges. When a person undergoes a HPV test, it is possible to experience side effects like genital warts, however, this is completely not risky.

Importance of HPV Test

Cervical cancer is one the leading causes of deaths among women aside from breast cancer. Many of the cases are diagnosed in their severe and latter stages primarily because the cancer cells brought by HPV is undetected until it is already in its maturity. Men can also be infected with the HPV virus as this is transmitted through sexual interaction; however, the HPV test is only available for women as of the present day. Most types of cancer cells are mutated within the first 10 years of its life and if proper prevention is not done by the concerned individual, most probably, cancer will be detected until 40 or 45 years of age. This is when the body is more prone to immuno virus causing complications, thus developing other diseases.

HPV testing is a breakthrough in science in detecting possibilities of cervical cancer, and although it still needs to be tweaked for accuracy and reliability, it is an effective tool for women to be advised of their health status and make necessary efforts to prevent diseases from advancing.