Last Updated December 20th, 2021
What is the HPV DNA test?
An HPV DNA test is a test used to detect 13 high-risk types of human papillomavirus.
What is Human Papillomavirus?
Human papillomavirus (commonly known as HPV) is a small DNA virus that resides on the skin or other moist surfaces of the body. Infection with HPV is mostly asymptomatic but can lead to warts on the skin or mucous membranes. In rare cases, an infection with HPV can lead to cancer of-
– Back of the throat
HPV is a very common virus. There are about 150 types of HPV that can infect your body. Out of these, about 30 types of HPV can affect the genitals. Of those, about 14 types are considered “high risk,” for leading to cervical cancer. The two most “high-risk” genotypes are HPV 16 and 18; they cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancers.
How does one get infected with Human Papillomavirus?
HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). The human papillomavirus can be transmitted by intimate skin to skin contact including vaginal or oral sex with an infected person.
The virus tends to stay dormant for many years post-infection. After a long latency period, the symptoms of the infection may start to manifest. Not all individuals exposed to this virus manifest the symptoms but can infect others, staying as carriers lifelong.
There is no specific cure for HPV infection and the patients are treated symptomatically. There is however a vaccine available in the market for the HPV virus. It protects against HPV types (6,11, 16,18,31, 33, 45, 52, and 58). If you belong to the age group of 15-45, the HPV vaccine is given in 3 separate doses. For people belonging to the age group 9-14, only 2 doses are required.
Can men get infected with HPV?
Yes, men are equally at risk of catching HPV infection although they tend to remain asymptomatic in most cases. The occurrence of warts in the genital or anal region in males often goes unnoticed. The chances of infection progressing to malignancy is much lower in the males, but they need to be treated because they can still act as carriers and transmit HPV infection to their partners. The risk of malignancy though small is still there. Males can have cancer of-
– Head and neck region
Why has my physician asked me to undergo an HPV DNA test?
The indications for HPV DNA test are the following-
– It can be used as a screening test for all women in the age group of 30-65 (every 5 years).
– If you have the risk factors for HPV infection, you may be asked to get screened at an earlier age.
– If you belong to the age group of 21-29 years and your Pap smear test has thrown up an abnormal result, you need to take an HPV DNA test.
– An HPV DNA test can also be used to determine the response to therapy.
Do I need to fast before the HPV DNA test?
There is no need to fast before HPV DNA test. You can eat and drink normally before undergoing this test.
Can I undergo an HPV DNA test if I am pregnant?
The healthcare providers generally avoid making a pregnant female undergo an HPV DNA test. The risk of catching an HPV infection is however higher in pregnancy (40%). It is advisable to go for this test while planning a pregnancy, before conception as the fetus is at risk of getting infected during pregnancy and labor.
Can children undergo an HPV DNA test?
No, the HPV DNA tests has only been approved for women over the age of 25 years by the FDA( the lower age limit is 21 years in some countries).
How should I prepare for an HPV DNA test?
No special precautions are required before you plan to undergo an HPV DNA test.
You should discuss in detail with your physician your medical history as well as the medicines that you may be taking at the time of the test. Intimate your physician if you are allergic to any drug. Moreover, you need to keep the following things in mind before this test-
– Avoid sexual contact with your partner for a couple of days before the HPV DNA test.
– Do not take any vaginal medicines, douches for two days before the test.
– Do not use any tampons, birth-control foams/jellies, vaginal creams, moisturizers, or lubricants for 2 days before the test. These may hamper the results of the test.
If you are undergoing your menses, postpone the test by a few days. The best time to go for the HPV DNA test is 5 days after your menstrual period ends.
Are there any risks involved?
The HPV DNA test is a very safe and risk-free procedure. As it is not a blood test, there is no invasion or puncture of a blood vessel and hence no pain. However, the process of insertion of a speculum in your vaginal cavity may be uncomfortable to you.
What are the contraindications of the HPV DNA test?
There are no specific contraindications of HPV DNA test. However, if you are going through your menses, it is advisable to postpone this test.
How is the HPV DNA test performed?
The HPV DNA test is carried out as a daycare procedure in a hospital or a diagnostic center. No sedation is required. In some cases, however, if you are apprehensive about the procure, your physician may prescribe a mild anxiolytic on the morning of the procedure. On the day of the test, your physician or a technician will explain the steps of the test to you. Feel free to discuss if you have any doubts. You will be escorted to the stipulated place. The procedure has the following steps-
– You will be asked to take off your clothes. A hospital gown will be handed over to you.
– You may be asked to empty your bladder.
– You will be asked to lie on an examination table.
– Your feet will be placed in stirrups.
– The physician/gynecologist will use a special instrument known as a speculum to collect samples from your cervix and vagina.
– The same sample can be used for a Pap smear test. Many times, both HPV DNA and Pap smear tests are carried out simultaneously.
These samples (placed in a bottle containing a preservative) will then be sent to the laboratory for evaluation.
How long does the HPV DNA test take?
The entire process of HPV DNA test takes about 30-45 minutes. You can get the results of the test in 1-3 weeks.
What is the cost of the HPV DNA test in India?
The cost is around Rs 2500 in India. The cost of this test is much lower in government setups.
|It can detect high-risk types of HPV before the emergence of abnormal cervical cells.||It cannot tell if you are going to develop cancer or not.|
|It is a minimally invasive test.||The process of insertion of the speculum in the vagina/cervix may be painful to some.|
|It has a higher sensitivity than Pap smear for screening cervical cancer.||It cannot be considered a standalone test.|
|Fewer women undergoing HPV tests develop cervical cancer, thanks to the ensuing treatment.||It is a costly test.|
What are the other tests to detect HPV DNA infection?
Cervical cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women worldwide. According to a recent survey- “Cervical cancer kills approximately 230,000 women annually.” Infection with HPV is responsible for most cases. This is a totally preventive illness. Prevention and early detection of the viral infection are of utmost importance. There are no blood tests for HPV, but the following 2 tests are commonly employed-
Pap test (also called smear tests): During this test, the gynecologist takes a sample of cells from the cervix. The cells are then examined under a microscope to look for any changes in the cervical cells.
Colposcopy: An instrument (called a colposcope) is used by the gynecologist to help visualize the cervix. A vinegar solution is placed on the cervix. The cells that have been infected with HPV turn white on coming in contact with this solution, thus helping in their detection.
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