Also Known As
Genital warts test
High-risk HPV
Formal Name
Genital Human Papilloma Virus
This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on 29 June 2020.
At a Glance
Why Get Tested?

To screen for infection with high risk types of genital human papilloma virus, which are associated with cervical cancer.

When To Get Tested?

If you are a sexually active female, or have symptoms of HPV infection (genital warts), or have an irregular cervical screening.

Sample Required?

A sampling of cells from the cervical area

Test Preparation Needed?

It is recommended that you do not use tampons or vaginal creams, deodorants, or medications for 2 days before the test. Some healthcare professionals may request that you refrain from sex for 24 to 48 hours before the test. Reschedule the test if you are having your period (menstruating). You may be asked to empty your bladder before the examination.

On average it takes 7 working days for the blood test results to come back from the hospital, depending on the exact tests requested. Some specialist test results may take longer, if samples have to be sent to a reference (specialist) laboratory. The X-ray & scan results may take longer. If you are registered to use the online services of your local practice, you may be able to access your results online. Your GP practice will be able to provide specific details.

If the doctor wants to see you about the result(s), you will be offered an appointment. If you are concerned about your test results, you will need to arrange an appointment with your doctor so that all relevant information including age, ethnicity, health history, signs and symptoms, laboratory and other procedures (radiology, endoscopy, etc.), can be considered.

Lab Tests Online-UK is an educational website designed to provide patients and carers with information on laboratory tests used in medical care. We are not a laboratory and are unable to comment on an individual's health and treatment.

Reference ranges are dependent on many factors, including patient age, sex, sample population, and test method, and numeric test results can have different meanings in different laboratories.

For these reasons, you will not find reference ranges for the majority of tests described on this web site. The lab report containing your test results should include the relevant reference range for your test(s). Please consult your doctor or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range if you do not have the lab report.

For more information on reference ranges, please read Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

What is being tested?

The test is looking for evidence of infection by certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV), a virus that can cause skin warts and genital warts (also called condylomata). These types of HPV (high-risk HPV or HR-HPV) can cause cervical, penile, and other forms of genital cancer.

How is the sample collected for testing?

Testing for HPV infection is usually done as part of a cervical screening (a test used to detect abnormal cells or conditions that may lead to cancer on the cervix, the lower part of the uterus or womb). A speculum is placed in the vagina to allow a sample of cells to be taken from the cervix , using a small brush. If the test shows abnormal cells, this sample or a follow-up sample may be used for an HPV test. An alternative screening process tests the cervical sample for HPV first, followed by examination for abnormal cells.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

It is recommended that you do not use tampons or vaginal creams, deodorants, or medications for 2 days before the test. Some healthcare professionals may request that you refrain from sex for 24 to 48 hours before the test. Reschedule the test if you are having your period (menstruating). You may be asked to empty your bladder before the examination.

Accordion Title
Common Questions
  • How is it used?

    Your doctor can detect warts and other lesions by visual inspection, as part of a cervical or genital examination.

    The HPV test can be used, whether or not any warts are visible, to find out if you are infected with a strain of HPV that increases the chance of cancer developing.

  • When is it requested?

    Women between the ages of 25 and 49 should have a cervical screening test every 3 years, and those between 50 and 64 should have one every 5 years, to screen for cancer or abnormal cells that may develop into cancer. The smear test can also often detect HPV infection. There are a number of different types of HPV, some of which have a low risk of causing cancer and others that have a high risk. The HPV test can confirm whether the person is infected with a high-risk type of HPV and which type (or types) of HPV is present.

    Women and men who are sexually active with more than one partner—or whose partner has more than one sex partner—should have regular examinations for sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV.

  • What does the test result mean?
    • HPV types 6 and 11 typically cause venereal warts, and (along with types 42, 43 and 44) have a low risk of progressing to cancer.
    • HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, and 36 have a higher risk of progressing to cancer.

    While the test can be helpful in predicting the 'likelihood' that cancer will develop if you receive no treatment, there is no guarantee that the predicted risk is correct, as other factors seem to be involved in development of cancer.

  • Is there anything else I should know?

    Genital HPV is one of the most commonly transmitted STDs in the world. In 90% of women who have cervical HPV infection, the infection becomes undetectable within two years. A few women have persistent infection, which is a key risk factor for cervical cancer. Regular cervical screening tests can monitor this risk and provide an early warning that you might need treatment.

  • How is HPV transmitted?

    Genital HPV infection is spread through sexual contact—primarily vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse. It is possible, though less likely, for the virus to be transmitted by sexual contact without intercourse. Rarely, a pregnant woman will pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery, resulting in laryngeal papillomatosis (warts on the voice box).

  • What are the symptoms of HPV infection?

    Certain types of HPV cause genital warts and other lesions, but the virus usually causes no symptoms. Most people with a genital HPV infection do not know they are infected. That is why regular check-ups and cervical screening are so important.

  • How is HPV infection treated?

    If HPV infection causes warts, they can be removed in a number of ways:

    • With chemicals,
    • By freezing,
    • By being burned off electrically, or
    • Via surgery or lasers.

    For most people, this treatment will clear the warts. If your warts return repeatedly, the doctor may try injecting them with the drug interferon.

    Although treatment clears the symptoms, the virus may often remain in your body.  There is no specific antiviral or antibiotic drug available to treat HPV.

    Abnormal cervical cells can be treated in a variety of ways, from monitoring over a period of months to see if they return to normal, to cryosurgery that freezes and destroys infected cells, to procedures that remove the abnormal tissue.

  • What will happen if I don't get treated?

    Untreated genital warts can disappear, stay the same, or grow (in size and/or number). Some types of the virus can cause cervical, penile or other genital cancers.

  • How can HPV be prevented?

    For information on prevention, visit the NHS Choices website.

    In the UK, a national HPV immunisation programme was introduced for all girls aged 12-13 years in 2008.  This is to protect girls against infection with HPV 16 and 18 (associated with 70% of cervical cancers).  A catch-up campaign for girls aged up to 18 years has also been implemented.

  • How common is HPV infection?

    It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. It is estimated that about 50% to 75% of sexually active men and women contract genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.