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Is there a test for HPV?

For women and people with a cervix, there is a test for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). Doing an HPV test as well as looking for changes to cervical cells (abnormalities) helps show who is at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. It means those who need it will have further tests more quickly, while reassuring those who have low risk of cervical cancer.

What happens during HPV testing?

Your experience during an HPV test will be the same as your current cervical screening (smear test) appointment. The only difference is that the sample of cells taken from your cervix is tested for HPV, instead of looking for abnormalities.

There are 3 reasons why you may have an HPV test:

Types of HPV testing

HPV primary screening

HPV primary screening is a type of test done on the sample of cells taken at your cervical screening (smear test) appointment. It is sometimes called HPV primary testing.

It means your cells will be tested for high-risk HPV first, instead of changes to your cells (abnormalities). Your appointment and how the test is done will stay exactly the same.

HPV primary screening will be introduced:

  • in Wales from September 2018
  • in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from late 2019.

It is a more accurate way of identifying who may be more at risk of developing cervical abnormalities or cervical cancer.

Once HPV primary screening starts, HPV triage (see below) will no longer be used.

Read more about HPV primary screening >  

HPV triage

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, HPV testing is used if cervical screening shows low-grade abnormalities (low-grade dyskaryosis). This is usually called HPV triage:

  • If high-risk HPV is found (HPV positive), you will be referred to colposcopy where a specialist takes a closer look at your cervix. If you feel anxious or overwhelmed by this result, you can call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000.
  • If high-risk HPV is not found (HPV negative), you will go back to routine screening every 3 or 5 years, depending on your age.

Once HPV primary screening begins (see above), HPV triage will no longer be used.

Test of cure

In the UK, HPV testing is also used to show treatment for cervical abnormalities has been successful. This is called test of cure. It is done at the first appointment after treatment, which is usually after six months:

  • If there is no high-risk HPV, you can return to regular screening every three or five years, depending on your age.  
  • If high-risk HPV is found, you will be referred to colposcopy again. If you are worried or upset about your result, remember we are here to support you. Call us on 0808 802 8000 or join our online forum to speak with people who have been through similar experiences.

Read more about test of cure >

Does HPV testing happen where I live?

At least one type of HPV test is used everywhere in the UK. Not all HPV tests are currently available in every part of the UK.

 

Country

Type of HPV test

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

HPV primary screening

From 2019

From 2019

From September 2018

To be confirmed

HPV triage

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Test of cure

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

HPV testing for men

There is currently no HPV test for men, as the result would not help the management or treatment of any related condition.

More information about HPV testing

We have more information about test of cure and HPV primary screening. Our Cervical screening (smear test) and HPV booklets also have more information that you may find helpful.

Order free information booklets in our online shop >

HPV and the different tests for it can be complicated to understand, but if you want to talk things through you can call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000. Or you may want to use our Ask the Expert service, where medical professionals will answer your questions.

Date last updated: 
17 Aug 2018
Date due for review: 
17 Aug 2020

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