Pap: HPV

Pap Smears and Relation to HPV

Every year women around the world seek care from their OBGYN for their (usually dreaded) annual exam. From stepping on the scale in front of strangers, sitting naked and vulnerable in a thin gown in a room for an extended period of time, the annual exam is something few women look forward to. Why go through the fuss? Even though CDC recommends your pap can be performed every three years, it is still important to go to your annual exams, well, annually. The pap smear obtained at that visit is crucial for women’s preventative care. But with confusing acronyms like LGSIL, HGSIL, and ASCUS in relation to HPV, your lab results can seem like a jumble of letters.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. It is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus in this large group is given a number which is called its HPV type. Certain types of HPV are related to cervical cancer.

What HPV types are related to cervical cancer?

Typically 12, 16, and 18 are the most common types of HPV related to an increased risk of cervical cancer. Typically these types are called, “high risk”

What happens if I have types of HPV linked with an increased risk?

While each patient’s care depends on the provider and patient at hand, typically if your pap smear shows cell changes such as LGSIL (Low-Grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesions) it is possible to simply conservatively follow up in 6 months for a repeat pap smear.

Can I have a normal pap, but abnormal HPV?

Absolutely. It is possible for your pap to be normal or negative but still have HPV. HPV is an STI, or sexually transmitted infection. It is not an STD like Gonorrhea or Chlamydia.

Is HPV rare?

HPV is so common that nearly all men and women get it at some point in their lives. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. You can develop symptoms years after being infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.

What problems can HPV present?

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV persists, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Even though HPV is common, it still poses health risks. If you are nervous about your next annual exam, you can always build some confidence by reading patient reviews.

You can be a step ahead of the process if you are a new patient by filling out new patient forms.  Then, you can schedule an appointment to see your OBGYN at the next available appointment time.

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