Top 5 Reasons Patients Request HPV Test

1. The HPV virus can lead to cervical cancer as well as other urogenital cancers in men and women. HPV testing can determine if you have a current active HPV virus infection. If you have been vaccinated against HPV in the past 10 years it’s very likely you are still protected against getting high grade cervical dysplasia (pre-cancer). It is also fairly likely you are protected against getting an abnormal pap smear. Yet some people want to know if their vaccine worked therefore request testing before starting a new relationship.

2. HPV testing is generally just done on a swab of the cervix. However you should know that high risk HPV types can cause cancer of the cervix, the vagina, the vulva, the penis, the rectum, or the respiratory tract including the mouth. It is fairly likely you are protected against getting a newly acquired HPV infection if you have been vaccinated. But both depending on your sexual activity, the sexual activity of your partner, and the robustness of the vaccine protection over time, eventually you may be at risk for HPV disease acquisition.

3. HPV testing improves the accuracy of a single pap smear. We think that for women over the age of 30 that HPV testing may be better than pap testing for determining protection against cervical cancer, so on more than one front you may not want to give up on HPV testing.

4. We don’t think immunity will wear off from those who completed the HPV series, but it might. Gynos will need women to get HPV tests as they go forth into the future farther and farther from their HPV vaccinations to see how well this protection holds up. Until we do this we won’t have good information on whether to recommend booster vaccinations, but for now we don’t think you do need a booster. It’s also important for women who never completed the series, or for women who didn’t complete the series on time to get the testing.

5. Active disease may mean you are more likely to transmit the HPV virus to an uninfected partner.

6. Vaccines have been extended to men and women up to age 45 thus should get tested if you aren’t sure you are a candidate for the vaccine.

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Suzanne Trupin, MD, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and owner of Women's Health Practice, Hada Cosmetic Medicine, and Hatha Yoga and Fitness

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