Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Do I need an HPV test?

Q. I'm 50 years old and have never had an HPV test. Do I need one as part of my health screening?

A. The short answer to your question is, no, you don't need the HPV test for routine cervical cancer screening. However, it's complicated, and there have been some changes in screening guidelines for cervical cancer that women should know about.

The HPV test detects the presence of certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that are thought to cause most, if not all, cases of cervical cancer. The virus is found in cervical cells and can be identified in a specimen collected much like a Pap.

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