HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and the leading cause of cervical cancer. Alongside vaccination, performing an HPV test is advisable to detect the existence of the HPV virus in the body and prevent further complications from developing.
What Is HPV Testing?
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause severe health problems such as genital warts and cervical cancer. HPV tests are an important measure for protecting your health. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam recommend HPV testing for women aged 25 years and older who have engaged in sexual activity. However, the test is not used to diagnose cervical cancer and can only detect HPV types 16 and 18 – HPV types, both of which possess a high risk of leading to cervical cancer.
Usually, the doctor will order 2 tests, a Pap test (Papanicolaou) and a molecular biology test.
Pap Test (Papanicolaou) – Cervical Smear Test
The Pap test is commonly used in women 21 years of age and older and is recommended periodically to screen for early cervical lesions caused by HPV infection. Accordingly, the doctor will spread cervical cells on glass slides and examine them under a microscope to detect abnormal cells.
Molecular Biology Test
Molecular biology tests help detect the presence of the HPV in the body. Compared with the Pap test, this method is more sensitive and can identify the HPV type, quantify the virus, and identify the HPV group, including high-risk and low-risk groups. There are 2 common molecular biology testing methods:
– PCR method: This is the primary and most widely used method in molecular biology laboratories; it detects specific HPV gene segments (HPV-DNA) with high sensitivity and specificity.
– Real-time PCR method: Compared with traditional PCRs, this technique is considered an outstanding improvement, with it being less labor-intensive and requiring a shorter execution time. However, it still ensures high sensitivity and specificity in detecting HPV and identifying the type of virus. This testing method helps to reduce the risk of foreign contamination causing false positives. It is the most used HPV test method today.
How Do I Read HPV Test Results?
After performing the HPV test, the results fall into the following 2 categories:
– A negative result does not mean that you do not have HPV, and it’s possible if you do have another form of HPV, it may be capable of causing cervical cancer. Current testing methods can only detect about 40 types of the virus, while hundreds of others exist.
– A positive result means you have HPV, but it doesn’t mean you necessarily have cervical cancer. However, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, so you need to monitor your health closely and periodically screen to enable timely treatment measures.
Depending on the patient’s condition and the test results, the doctor may prescribe other tests, such as a colposcopy or biopsy, alongside periodic monitoring.
How Does HPV Testing Work?
Preparing Before the Test
For the most accurate test results, you need to prepare the following before the test:
– Do not have sex or use vaginal medications or products for 2 days before the test.
– Although it is possible to test during your menstrual cycle, you should still avoid testing on these days. Doctors can get better cell samples on non-menstrual days.
Usually, the HPV test is recommended by the doctor in conjunction with a Pap test, with the HPV test using the same Pap test sample or possibly a different sample collection.
The sampling process is quick and causes little discomfort for the patient. Specifically, the patient is asked to lie on the gynecological examination table, and medical staff then use specialized medical instruments to take samples from the cervix. The specimen is then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Where Is HPV Tested And How Much Does it Cost?
The cost for each HPV test in medical facilities usually ranges from a few hundred thousand to more than one million dong, depending on factors such as:
– The quality of medical facilities: For a reputable medical facility with modern equipment and a team of highly skilled doctors and nurses, the cost of testing may be higher than that of conventional testing facilities.
– Number of test types: The cost can fluctuate in the range of several hundred thousand dong depending on the number of test types. Basic tests can identify 17 types of HPV virus and may only cost a few hundred thousand, but to test for 40 types of HPV, the cost will usually be in the millions.
– HPV test package: When testing for HPV, we may advise you to perform other test packages such as a gynecological examination, vaginal examination, or HPV test to determine the specific type—options for which costs may vary.
– Medicines and treatment following the test: The doctor will rely on the results to suggest an appropriate intervention and treatment regimen. Therefore, the cost will also vary depending on your condition.
HPV testing is vital in preventing and treating cervical cancer and detecting related diseases, such as genital warts, in otherwise healthy patients. Take an HPV screening test to protect yourself and those around you. Do not hesitate to call 1900 1717 to receive 24/7 advice from dedicated staff from Diag.
* This article was written in consultation with Diag’s medical experts. However, the information it contains is for reference only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Before taking action based on the information provided, please get advice from a medical professional.