Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Cancer, HPV Testing, and HPV Vaccines: Frequently Asked Questions

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If I have a positive HPV test, what does it mean?

If you have cervical human papilloma virus (HPV) infection and an abnormal Pap test result, your doctor or nurse will explain what other tests you might need.

If you have cervical HPV infection and a normal Pap test result, it means that you have genital HPV, but no cell changes were seen on your Pap test. There are 2 options:

  • You’ll most likely be tested with an HPV test and a Pap test again in 12 months.

    In most cases, retesting in 12 months shows no sign of the virus.

    If the virus does go away and your Pap test is normal you can go back to normal screening.

    If the virus is still there or changes are seen on the Pap test, you’ll need more testing.
  • As another option, the doctor may suggest testing specifically for HPV-16 or both -16 and -18 (the 2 types that are most likely to cause cervical cancer).

    If testing shows that you have HPV-16 and/or -18, more testing will be needed.

    If the test doesn’t show infection with HPV-16 and/or -18), you should be retested in 12 months with both an HPV test and a Pap test.

It’s usually not possible to know when a person got an HPV infection or who gave it to them. HPV may be found right away or not until many years later. Most men and women with HPV don’t know they have it.

If HPV goes away, can you get it again?

There are many types of HPV. You may have one type that goes away, but you can get another different type. It’s possible to get the same type again, but the risk of this is low.

Will HPV affect my pregnancy or my baby?

Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection does not directly affect the chances of getting pregnant.

If HPV infection leads to cervical changes that need to be treated, the treatment should not affect your chances of getting pregnant. But if you have many treatments and biopsies, which can happen with more frequent screening, the risk of pre-term labor and low birth weight babies can go up.

HPV is rarely passed from a mother to her baby. The rare cases where this has happened do not involve the types of HPV that can cause cancer. The section “How do you get genital HPV?” has more on how HPV is transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy.


Last Medical Review: 04/09/2014
Last Revised: 04/22/2014