The human papillomavirus or HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, with about 100 strains, of which 40 are presented through sexual transmission. Of this group, a dozen are considered high risk and can cause cervical cancer. HPV type 16 and type 18 have the most significant influence on the appearance of this type of cancer.
Unprotected sex, especially when we have several sexual partners, is the trigger for spreading this condition, which often has no symptoms. So if there are no signs that show its presence, such as genital warts, or if, on the contrary, you have strange lesions in your intimate area and you want to check the diagnosis, what test should you take to find out if you have HPV? In this FastlyHealarticle, we explain it to you.
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HPV in women
The human papillomavirus is one of the most common STDs. It is believed that a significant percentage of sexually active people will have the infection at some point. Depending on the contracted strain, no symptoms may be present. Therefore, the person will not know that they are infected. This is one of the reasons why HPV spreads so quickly since many men and women believe they are healthy, and that is why they do not use a condom in their sexual relations.
However, other types of HPV do present symptoms, with clear signs that put us on alert. In these cases, it is essential to carry out a detection test to determine if it is a high or low-risk strain, essential information to know the consequences of this condition on our health.
All types of papilloma that only produce slight changes in the cervix causing the appearance of genital warts are considered low risk, but that nevertheless does not increase the risk of suffering from cervical or anal cancer. The most common are HPV types 6 and 11, responsible for the appearance of most genital warts. However, there are others in this group, such as 40, 42, 43, 44, 53, 54, 61, 72, 73, and 81.
High-risk strains cause abnormal cells to form on the cervix, leading to the future development of cervical or cervical cancer and anal cancer. Types 16 and 18 are the most common and the most dangerous, accounting for 70% of cervical cancer. Other less common strains that cause this condition are 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 68.
Test for HPV
Once we have started our sexual life, gynecological control becomes essential regardless of whether or not we have a current partner at the time of the consultation. Why is it so necessary to go to these checkups? Because in them, in addition to evaluating our health in a general way with the breast examination or clarifying doubts, our gynecologist will perform other routine tests to determine, among other things, the health of our cervix.
The cytology or Pap smear test you should take to know if you have HPV initially. It is a routine test performed when we go to our gynecological checkup.
What is cytology for?
This test is part of any routine gynecological checkup. Using the Pap smear or cytology, the gynecologist collects a sample of the cells from your cervix that will later be sent to a laboratory for analysis. This sample can be evaluated if any abnormal changes in cervical cells may indicate the presence of HPV or cervical cancer.
If the cytology does not show abnormalities, it is considered that there is no HPV or that, if there is it in the past, it has already disappeared from your body. Suppose the cytology detects abnormal changes in the uterine cells. In that case, your gynecologist will request a test to detect HPV that allows you to know precisely what type of virus is generating the alterations.
In women older than 30 years, both tests are usually performed simultaneously, extracting cell samples to check the health of the cervix and rule out HPV.
Test for HPV
Testing for HPV is not routinely performed on all women. Because the infection with this virus is so common, this test is not usually performed in women under 30 years of age unless the cytology result has been altered and the presence of HPV is to be checked. Why? For the simple reason that most types are harmless and disappear on their own from the body, so investing resources in detecting them is not a gynecological priority.
In women older than 30 years, the HPV test is usually done in conjunction with cytology. This test can precisely detect the type of virus that affects the cervix and the risks of cervical cancer.
Abnormal Pap test or HPV test results
An abnormal result is not always a cause for alarm, so following your doctor’s recommendations is essential. The results after cytology and HPV test can be:
- Cytology or regular HPV test: at this time, there is no risk of developing cervical cancer; the results are expected, so it is recommended to repeat the cytology or both tests in 5 years if you are older than 30 and in 3 years for cytology in women under 30 years of age.
- Cytology or HPV test detects a low-risk type: Low-risk HPV does not lead to cervical cancer. However, tests must be repeated after 12 months. If there are genital warts, your doctor will apply a treatment for their removal.
- Cytology and HPV test that detects a high-risk type: if a specific high-risk type is detected, the gynecologist will request a colposcopy, an exam in which the cervix is closely observed. If the test determines an abnormal result, but the type of virus is not identified, it is still advisable to perform a colposcopy.
How to treat human papillomavirus
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for HPV that can eliminate the virus from the body, so prevention is so important. In the case of patients with genital warts, there is a specific topical treatment to eliminate these lesions. On the other hand, women at risk of developing uterine cancer require frequent gynecological examinations to detect any essential cellular changes in the cervix.
If precancerous cells are detected in the cervix, there are surgical treatments to eliminate them, and your gynecologist will indicate the best alternative in your particular case.
The real key to maintaining our health lies in prevention. Currently, there are two highly recommended ways to avoid the spread of HPV:
- Get vaccinated against the virus: it is one of the most effective ways to prevent this condition. The vaccine can be applied to men or women between 9 and 26 years old, its first application being more common between 11 and 12 years old. Our article explains everything about this alternative and what you need to know about the HPV vaccine.
- Condom use: the condom is the only contraceptive method capable of preventing the spread of STDs, including HPV. It should be used whenever you have sex, incredibly casual. It should be placed before the first penetration and maintained until the end of the sexual encounter. Any genital contact between both parties that includes fluid exchange can lead to transmission of sexual diseases.
If you have any other questions about HPV or the transmission of sexual diseases, consult your gynecologist.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to What test should I take to know if I have HPV, we recommend that you enter our category of Female reproductive system.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.