What is HPV?
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of
viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body such as
your cervix, anus, mouth and throat.
Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious.
They are spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the
genital areas, including vaginal,
anal, or oral sex.
HPV infections are more
likely in those who have many sex partners or have sex with someone who has had
many partners. However, as the infection is so common, most people get HPV
infections shortly after becoming sexually active for the first time. Even a
person who has had only one partner can get HPV.
can have an HPV infection even if they have no symptoms and their only sexual
contact with an HPV infected person happened many years ago.
can HPV infection do?
Infection with some types of genital HPV can cause:
Genital warts – which
is the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK.
Abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within
your cervix – which can
sometimes lead to cervical cancer.
Who should get tested?
Any woman over the age of 18 who is sexually active.
Although anyone who has
ever been sexually active can get HPV as it’s easily passed between partners
through sexual contact, we only supply a self test for women. This is because, in
men, high-risk HPVs do not cause symptoms and are often hard to diagnose and
can’t be easily identified by self testing.
Any men who are worried about HPV should either discuss it with their GP or visit a sexual health clinic.
What does the test detect?
The test looks for the strains of the virus which are
associated with cervical cancer. Some types are high risk and some types are
low risk. HPV-16 and HPV-18 are considered to be highest risk for cervical
Together these two types are responsible for about 7 in 10
The test will report any high risk HPV and if it is one of
the types 16 or 18 that is detected then this will be shown separately. If it
is one of the other high risk HPV types then you will be told that you have one
of the other high risk HPVs.
It can detect HPV infections before abnormal cell changes
are evident, and before any treatment for cell changes is needed.
It does not check for the strains of the virus which can
cause genital warts.
What's the difference between a HPV test and a smear test?
The HPV test detects the
presence of any high risk strains of HPV, which are responsible for almost all
cases of cervical cancer.
With a smear test, health care providers scrape cells from the surface
of the cervix and analyse them under a microscope for abnormal ones that could
turn into cervical cancer.
How do I perform the test?
It involves using a
very simple self-sampling wand to collect your vaginal sample. It’s then sent
off to our lab in a pre-paid envelope. We supply a full instruction leaflet with each test pack.
How do I get my test results?
You will receive your test results
within 7 working days of your test kit sample reaching the lab.
soon as the lab has your test results you will be notified by your chosen
method, email or SMS. There will not be any detail in this message, it
will simply ask you to login to your Webmed account; using your secure
password. When you have logged in you will find your confidential test results.
What will the result mean?
If the results are negative and the test shows no high risk
HPV, there is currently no risk of cervical cancer. However, it’s still
important to attend your surgery for regular smear tests.
If the results are positive, you carry a high risk HPV
infection. Please contact your GP for follow-up tests to check for abnormal cells in your cervix.
Women who carry the virus for a long period of time run an increased risk of
cell changes and cervical cancer. Detecting an infection at an early stage
allows for treatment.
A positive test for a high risk HPV type does not mean that
you will develop cervical cancer.
Up to 8 out of 10 people
will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives but for most
people, the body will clear the infection on its own and they will never know
they had it.
How can I prevent HPV infection?
Condoms can help prevent infection with HPV, but they don't
guarantee total protection as HPV can live on
the skin in and around the whole genital area which won't all be covered by a
condom. HPV can therefore be transmitted through sexual contact of any kind
including any touching or genital to genital contact, as well as oral, vaginal
and anal sex.
Recent evidence shows that having the HPV vaccine, even after you have had
an infection with HPV, offers women protection from both infection with other
HPV types and reinfection by the same type in the future. However, the vaccine
is only available on the NHS for free until the age of 18 but you can pay for
it privately at some clinics or pharmacies
If I've had the HPV vaccine, does it mean I'm fully protected?
If you have had the HPV vaccination you are protected
against at least 70% of cancer causing HPV infections, but you're absolutely not fully
protected. Attending smear tests is just as important if you have been
vaccinated or not as it will detect abnormalities caused by other types of HPV.
How confidential is the service?
Your test kit will be delivered in plain
packaging with no mention of the contents or who it's from. Your test result
will be completely confidential and we will not inform anyone, including your
GP, that you have used our service unless you ask us to.
This is what the packaging looks like from
This is what the packaging looks like when
your order is delivered by Royal Mail Special Delivery
Tests for the types related to cervical cancer
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