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HPV Cancer Screening

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What screening tests exist for HPV-related diseases?

  • Cervical Cancer: Cervical cancer can be detected with routine cervical cancer screening (Pap test) and follow-up of abnormal results. The Pap test can find abnormal cells on the cervix so that they can be removed before cancer develops. Abnormal cells often become normal over time, but can sometimes turn into cancer. These cells can usually be treated, depending on their severity and on the woman’s age, past medical history, and other test results. An HPV DNA test, which can find certain HPV types on a woman's cervix, may also be used with a Pap test in certain cases (called co-testing). Even women who were vaccinated when they were younger need regular cervical cancer screening because the vaccines do not protect against all cervical cancers.
  • Anal and Penile Cancers: There is no routinely recommended screening test for anal or penile cancer because more information is still needed to find out if those tests are effective.
  • Cancers of the Back of the Throat (Oropharynx): There is no approved test to find early signs of oropharyngeal cancer because more information is still needed to find out if those tests are effective.

While there is no routine screening test for HPV-associated diseases other than cervical cancer, you should visit your doctor regularly for checkups.

Is there a treatment for HPV or related problems?

HPV vaccination could prevent most cancers and other diseases caused by HPV. There is no treatment for the virus itself, but there are treatments for the problems that HPV can cause:

  • Visible genital warts may remain the same, grow more numerous, or go away on their own. The warts can be treated when they appear.
  • Abnormal cervical cells (found on a Pap test) often become normal over time, but they can sometimes turn into cancer. If they remain abnormal, these cells can usually be treated to prevent cervical cancer from developing. This may depend on the severity of the cell changes, the woman’s age and past medical history, and other test results. It is critical to follow up with testing and treatment, as recommended by a doctor.
  • Cervical cancer is most treatable when it is diagnosed and treated early. Problems found can usually be treated, depending on their severity and on the woman’s age, past medical history, and other test results. Most women who get routine cervical cancer screening and follow up as told by their provider can find problems before cancer even develops. Prevention is always better than treatment.
  • Other HPV cancers are also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early. Although there is no routine screening test for these cancers, you should visit your doctor regularly for checkups.
  • Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP), a rare condition in which warts grow in the throat, can be treated with surgery or medicines. It can sometimes take many treatments or surgeries over a period of years.

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