At a glance
Why get tested?
HPV infection is very common. In most people, it clears up naturally in about 8-14 months. There are about one hundred different types of HPV, most of which have a low risk of causing cancer. However, there are several types that have a high cancer risk. In Australia, the HPV test is used to determine if the person has a high-risk HPV type.
From November 2017, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test has replaced the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear, or cervical smear test, as the first line in screening for the prevention of cancer of the cervix in women. The HPV test is a more accurate screening test than the Pap smear, since the vast majority of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. With this test, most women can be safely screened for cervical cancer every five years after their first HPV test.
See the short video below for more on HPV testing and how it can help you avoid cervical cancer.
HPV testing is also used to monitor treatment for infection with HPV, some types of which are associated with cervical cancer.
When to get tested?
Women who have no abnormal vaginal symptoms and who are aged 25 to 74 are invited to participate in the screening program commencing at the end of 2017 with their next scheduled cervical screening test.
All women should see their doctor for assessment, which may include HPV testing, if they have abnormal vaginal symptoms, such as:
- Vaginal bleeding other than normal menstrual bleeding
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Pain with or following sexual intercourse
- Bleeding or other discharge with or following sexual intercourse
A sampling of cells from the cervical area
What is being tested?
The test is done to screen (or monitor treatment) for an infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a that can cause skin warts and genital warts (also called condylomata) and laryngeal polyps. It has been proven as a causative factor for oral, anal, cervical, penile, and other forms of genital cancer.
How is the sample collected for testing?
As part of a cervical screening test (formally Pap smear). This is a test used mainly to detect cancer of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus or womb, or conditions that may lead to cancer. A sample of cells is taken from the cervical area during a pelvic examination, using a type of spatula, swab, or brush. The cells are transferred to a special preservative liquid and are transported to the laboratory for HPV testing.