The HPV DNA test checks for the presence of high-risk HPV types. It helps identify women who presently have cervical lesions or are most likely to have precancerous changes and are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
Research has shown that HPV testing is more accurate than the Pap test in detecting precancerous changes in the cervix. While this test could be an important part of cervical cancer screening in the future, research tells us that it works better for some groups of women than others:
- Research has shown that HPV testing as a cervical cancer screening tool is most effective for women 30 years of age and older.
- The HPV DNA test is not appropriate for women younger than 30 because transient or temporary HPV infections are very common in this age group. These infections are unlikely to result in abnormal cervical changes that could lead to cancer.
Can I get tested?
The HPV test is available in Canada but not in all provinces. It is not part of regular cervical cancer screening. More research on how it can best be included in screening programs is needed. Where it is available, the HPV test is used only for women 30 years of age and older as a follow-up to abnormal Pap test results. The HPV test is not used as a replacement for the Pap test.
HPV testing in men
Currently in Canada there is no approved DNA test for HPV in men. However, genital warts associated with an HPV infection can be found during a physical examination by a healthcare professional.