Getting tested for HPV, as part of cervical screening, is one of the most important things you can do for your health. All women above a certain age, even those in monogamous relationships or with the same long-term partner, need to be tested for HPV. A positive test result doesn't indicate when you got the infection or from whom, HPV can lay dormant for some time.2 Testing positive is not a reflection on you, your partner or your lifestyle. So, while testing HPV positive doesn't necessarily mean you have, or will develop, cervical cancer, it does mean you could be at an increased risk1,2,3.
Even if you received the HPV vaccine, you should still be screened for cervical cancer. Although the available HPV vaccines cover some high-risk HPV types (including HPV 16 and HPV 18, the two highest risk types), they do not cover all high-risk HPV types. Therefore, experts still recommend that you continue to get screened regularly for cervical cancer even after you’ve received the vaccine1,2.
Depending on your HPV test result, you may be asked to come back later for repeat testing, or your healthcare provider may request more tests be run on your sample to further determine your risk for cervical disease4. It may also be recommended that you come back for a colposcopy, to examine your cervix more closely. A colposcopy is an important step after receiving abnormal test results. During a colposcopy, a doctor uses a colposcope (a lighted magnifying device) to see problems in the cervix that would be missed by the naked eye. A tissue sample or cervical biopsy may also be taken for laboratory analysis to determine if there are cellular changes indicating cervical precancer or cancer. After the procedure, it is normal to feel some soreness and have some vaginal bleeding or discharge.
1 www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-cancer/prevention/ (accessed April 2021)
2 www.jostrust.org.uk/information/hpv/what-is-hpv (accessed April 2021)
3 www.jostrust.org.uk/information/hpv/how-do-people-get-hpv (accessed April 2021)
4 www.nhs.uk/conditions/colposcopy/ (accessed April 2021)