Results from your HPV test will come back as either positive or negative.
- Positive HPV test. A positive test result means that you have a type of high-risk HPV that's linked to cervical cancer. It doesn't mean that you have cervical cancer now, but it's a warning sign that cervical cancer could develop in the future. Your doctor will probably recommend a follow-up test in a year to see if the infection has cleared or to check for signs of cervical cancer.
- Negative HPV test. A negative test result means that you don't have any of the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
Depending on your test results, your doctor may recommend one of the following as a next step:
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- Normal monitoring. If you're over age 30, your HPV test is negative and your Pap test normal, you'll follow the generally recommended schedule for repeating both tests in five years.
- Colposcopy. In this follow-up procedure, your doctor uses a special magnifying lens (colposcope) to more closely examine your cervix.
- Biopsy. In this procedure, sometimes done in conjunction with colposcopy, your doctor takes a sample of cervical cells (biopsy) to be examined more closely under a microscope.
- Removal of abnormal cervical cells. To prevent abnormal cells from developing into cancerous cells, your doctor may suggest a procedure to remove the areas of tissue that contain the abnormal cells.
- Seeing a specialist. If your Pap test or HPV test results are abnormal, your health care provider will probably refer you to a gynecologist for a colposcopic exam. If test results show that you might have cancer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating cancers of the female genital tract (gynecologic oncologist) for treatment.
- Making sense of your Pap and HPV test results. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/pap/default.htm. Accessed March 2, 2015.
- HPV and HPV testing. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/infectiousagents/hpv/hpvandhpvtesting/index. Accessed March 2, 2015.
- Human papillomavirus: Genital HPV infection fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/STD/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm. Accessed March 2, 2015.
- Palefsky JM. Epidemiology of human papillomavirus infections. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 2, 2015.
- Pap test fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.hhs.gov/opa/reproductive-health/general-reproductive-health/pap-test. Accessed March 3, 2015.
- Pap and HPV testing. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/cervical/pap-hpv-testing-fact-sheet. Accessed March 3, 2015.
- Laughlin-Tommaso SK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Rochester, Minn. March 13, 2015.
- Algorithms: Updated consensus guidelines for managing abnormal cervical cancer screening tests and cancer precursors. American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. http://www.asccp.org. Accessed March 13, 2015.
- Cervical cancer prevention and early detection. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/moreinformation/cervicalcancerpreventionandearlydetection/cervical-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-cervical-cancer-screening-guidelines. Accessed March 13, 2015.