Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection that affects both men and women, and can lead to various types of cancers, including cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancer. However, the good news is that HPV tests for women are available, and they can help detect the presence of the virus before it turns into cancer. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of HPV tests for women, the dangerous subtypes, what to do if your test result is positive, how the test is done, how often it needs to be done, and the history of discovering HPV.
Importance of HPV Tests for Women
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly all sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives. While most people with HPV do not develop cancer, some may develop precancerous cells that can eventually turn into cancer. This is why regular screening is essential to detect HPV early and prevent cancer.
The Dangerous Subtypes
There are over 100 different types of HPV, and some are more dangerous than others. The two most dangerous types of HPV are types 16 and 18, which are responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer cases. Other types that can lead to cancer include types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. It is important to note that most HPV infections do not cause symptoms, so the only way to know if you have the virus is to get tested.
What to Do if Your Test Result is Positive If your HPV test result is positive, it means that you have the virus, but it does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. In most cases, the virus will go away on its own without causing any problems. However, in some cases, the virus can cause abnormal cells to develop, which can eventually turn into cancer if left untreated. If your test result is positive, your healthcare provider will likely recommend further testing, such as a Pap smear, to look for any abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are found, your healthcare provider may recommend additional testing or treatment, such as a colposcopy or a biopsy.
How the Test is Done?
There are two types of HPV tests: the HPV DNA test and the Pap smear. The HPV DNA test checks for the presence of the virus in cervical cells, while the Pap smear checks for any abnormal cells in the cervix. Both tests are done during a pelvic exam, which involves the healthcare provider examining the cervix and collecting a sample of cells from the cervix. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
How Often the Test Needs to be Done The frequency of HPV testing depends on a woman's age and risk factors. For women ages 21 to 29, the CDC recommends getting a Pap smear every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 can choose to either get a Pap smear every three years or get an HPV DNA test every five years. Women over the age of 65 may not need to be screened if they have had normal test results in the past.
History of Discovering HPV
HPV was first discovered in the 1930s by German virologist Richard Shope. However, it was not until the 1970s that researchers began to understand the link between HPV and cancer. In 1976, German researcher Harald zur Hausen discovered that HPV was responsible for cervical cancer. His discovery led to the development of the HPV vaccine, which was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006.
HPV tests for women are essential to detect the virus early and prevent cancer.