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

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If you test positive for HPV, what does it mean?

If you have HPV and an abnormal Pap test result, your doctor or nurse will explain what other tests you might need.

If you have HPV and a normal Pap test result, it means that you have the HPV virus, 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 many cases, retesting in 12 months shows that the virus has gone away. In 9 out of 10 women, HPV either goes away or cannot be found within 1 to 2 years.

    If the virus does go away (both tests are negative) 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 this testing is negative, 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 HPV 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.

Last Medical Review: 05/02/2013
Last Revised: 05/02/2013