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A specific test is available to detect HPV DNA (the genetic material of the virus) in women. The test may be used in women with indeterminate Pap smear results or in women who are 30 years of age or older at the time of Pap testing. The test is not a substitute for regular Pap screening, and there is no test for HPV in men at this time.

An Overview of the HPV Test

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of viruses that was given its name because it can cause papillomas, which are more commonly known as warts. Depending on the type of HPV virus and the location of transmission, warts can appear on the hands or feet or in the genital region (known as genital warts). But certain types of HPV, known as "high-risk" HPVs, can also increase the risk for cancer, including cervical cancer. These types of HPV are usually transmitted through sexual contact, but in most cases do not cause warts or other HPV symptoms.
 
Sexually transmitted HPV infections are quite common. Fortunately, it is rare for an HPV infection to lead to cervical cancer. This is especially true for women under the age of 30 (a group that tends to have a high rate of HPV infection). In most of these cases, the body is able to get rid of the virus on its own. And if the virus is no longer detectable, a woman's risk for cancer appears to be low.
 
A test for HPV has been approved for women age 30 and older because of the higher risk of cervical cancer in this age group. The HPV test is also used in women when Pap test results are inconclusive. There are currently no tests available to detect HPV in men.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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