Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Cervical Screening

We now know that infection over many years with certain types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer.

There are around 40 types of HPV which can infect the genital area (including the cervix). Genital HPV is spread by genital skin-to-skin contact during sex. Most people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives but never know as there are usually no symptoms and, most often, the virus goes away on its own without causing any problems.

An abnormal Pap test is often due to infection with HPV. The Pap test can find changes in the cells of the cervix before serious problems develop. These cell abnormalities can also be predicted using the HPV test, which detects the virus itself.

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