HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that is found in nearly 79 million Americans at this very moment. About 80 percent of men and women who are sexually active will be infected with HPV at some point during their lifetime. While some people with HPV will never know they have it, other strains of HPV can lead to serious health complications including cervical cancer.
Is an HPV test the same as a pap smear?
No, these are two different tests. A pap smear looks for suspicious cellular changes in the cervix to spot precancerous and cancerous cells early. An HPV test, on the other hand, specifically looks for a current HPV infection but won’t be able to detect cervical cell changes. Women should turn to their OBGYN to get both a Pap smear and an HPV test.
How often should I get tested for HPV?
Even if you’ve been vaccinated for HPV or you’ve already gone through menopause, it’s still a good idea to get regular pap smears. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should get a pap smear every three years (if they’ve only had normal pap smear results in the past). Women who’ve had an abnormal pap smear may need to come in once a year. A pap smear should be performed regardless of whether or not you suspect that you might have HPV.
Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should get a pap smear every three years, an HPV test every five years, or both tests together every five years.
How is HPV treated?
Many strains of HPV are shed by the body over time so they don’t require treatment; however, other strains of HPV can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer. Cryosurgery or laser treatment may be used to remove abnormal cells from the cervix or genital warts.
Should I get vaccinated against HPV?
The CDC recommends that both men and women between the ages of 11 to 26 should get vaccinated for HPV, as this vaccine can protect against many of the strains that can lead to cervical cancer. Since the vaccine is only administered to people who’ve never had HPV before, it’s a good idea to talk with your OBGYN about getting your teen vaccinated before they become sexually active.
You must be getting regular pap smears and HPV tests from your OBGYN if you are sexually active. These screening tools are the most effective ways to detect this common STI. Call your OBGYN if it’s time to schedule your next pap smear or if you are interested in STI testing.