What Is HPV?

Arin E. Ford , MD
Obstetrics/Gynecology, Rush Copley Medical Group

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that include more than 100 different strains or types. More than 30 of these viruses are sexually transmitted, and can infect the genital area of women and men. The HPV test detects high-risk types of the HPV virus in women as part of screening for abnormal cervical cells.

The HPV test can more accurately identify if a woman is at risk for developing cervical cancer than the Pap test alone. Like the Pap test, the HPV test is conducted with the same sample of cells from the cervix. The HPV test is recommended for women age 30 and older.

If you test positive for HPV, it does not mean you have cervical cancer. Additional exams or tests are needed to determine if a cervical disease exists.

For younger females, vaccination against HPV is recommended. Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the four most common types of HPV, is recommended for girls 11 to 12 years old and for females 13 to 26 years old who did not receive it when they were younger.

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