Spread through sexual activity, HPV isn’t just one virus. It’s a collection of more than 100 strains, some of which can turn the cells in your cervix cancerous. If you’re sexually active, you’re most likely to acquire some strain of the virus.
HPV usually goes away on its own, but when it doesn’t, it causes the cell changes that could lead to cancer. A regular HPV test helps Dr. Marc Jean-Gilles know what type of HPV you have and if it’s the type about which you should be concerned.
Read on to learn if you should request an HPV test and how often you should be tested.
HPV test frequency
Women 30 and older benefit from regular HPV tests. Though the virus often strikes women younger than 30, it usually goes away in women of this age. HPV tests after 30 screen for the viruses that linger. You benefit from an HPV test every five years. From age 21-29, you benefit from a Pap test every three years.
The test itself
During HPV testing, Dr. Jean-Gilles places a speculum into your vagina as is normally done during a pelvic exam. He uses a soft brush to collect cells from the outside of your cervix – not unlike a Pap test. He sends the cells to a laboratory. HPV tests and Pap tests are often done at the same time.
HPV is common, and not all strains are harmful. If you have a lingering case, an HPV test can tell Dr. Jean-Gilles what type you have and if it’s a strain to watch for abnormal cervical cells.
Women who don’t need to be tested for HPV
Women older than 65 who’ve had three normal Pap tests or HPV and Pap tests within the last 10 years are likely no longer in need of Pap and HPV tests. If you don’t have a cervix, due to a hysterectomy, you can usually skip HPV tests. But, this is only true if you don’t have a history of cervical cancer.
More frequent HPV testing
Dr. Jean-Gilles recommends you have more frequent HPV tests if you’ve had treatment for cervical cancer or abnormal cells on the cervix in the past. Women afflicted by HIV (the virus that leads to AIDS) are at higher risk of cervical cancer and benefit from more frequent HPV tests, especially following diagnosis. If you have a weakened immune system because of organ transplant, chemotherapy, or steroid use, more frequent tests may be recommended. This is because HPV is less likely to resolve on its own and thus is more likely to cause unfavorable changes in your cells.
At Abundant Life Healthcare, we have the goal of keeping women in Lawrenceville, Georgia, healthy, so they enjoy a high quality of life. Regular screenings for HPV and cervical cell irregularities are part of this process. If you’re in need of this regular screening or just aren’t sure if it’s time, call our office or schedule online to make an appointment for a pelvic exam and HPV/Pap test.