Reviewed by Joseph Maloney, M.D.
Human Papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. For the test, the physician uses a swab to collect a sample of cells from the endocervix, as in a pap smear.
HPV causes 99.7 percent of all cases of cervical cancer; however, most cases of HPV do not have such severe consequences. It is only certain strains of HPV which appear to cause cancer.
The HPV test is administered after an abnormal pap smear. An abnormal pap smear can have many causes other than cervical cancer; the HPV test helps determine the more specific cause. It can also be used independent of a pap smear to test for signs of cervical cancer.
While a pap smear detects changes in cells as a result of infection, the HPV test is a DNA test that can detect the presence of HPV before cells have begun to change.
For more information on blood tests in general, click here.
Last updated: 11-Apr-07