The Link Between HPV and Cervical Cancer

The Link Between HPV and Cervical Cancer

Short for human papillomavirus, HPV is a common virus that can afflict both males and females. In fact, it’s so common that previous estimates have stated that 9 out of every 10 people get HPV at some point in their lives.

How does a person get HPV in the first place?

High-risk types of HPV that cause cervical cancer are spread through sex or intimate skin-to-skin contact. HPV can “hide” in the cervical cells for a long period of time and not be detected. There are no warning symptoms for HPV, and many people are unaware that they have their virus, or that they’re passing it to their sexual partner.

If a woman has HPV, does that mean she will get cancer?

No! Most women fight off the virus before it causes any problems. It’s only when high-risk types of HPV don’t go away that abnormal cells can develop.  If the HPV remains on your cervix for years or even decades, you could be at great risk for cervical cancer. This explains why women over the age of 30 are most vulnerable to developing cervical cancer. The good news is that cervical cancer is preventable with proper care and testing.

Doesn’t a Pap test detect HPV?

Not exactly. The Pap cannot detect HPV directly. A laboratory technician looks at a sample of your cervical cells under a microscope for signs of abnormal changes, which are caused by the virus. While the Pap can identify many women in need of treatment, it is not foolproof.  Luckily, Greenbrier Obstetrics & Gynecology P.C. offers an additional test (Digene’s HPV Test) to ensure our clients receive the best HPV and cervical cancer prevention services in Chesapeake, VA.  See below for more information about the tests.

Looks ForHow it Works
Pap TestSigns of abnormal cell changesA lab professional looks at a sample of cervical cells through a microscope
HPV TestThe virus that causes the abnormal cell changes that can lead to cervical cancerA computerized molecular test is done on either the same sample of cervical cells collected for the Pap, or on a separate sample