What is HPV?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is sexually transmitted and is very common. It is estimated that roughly 40% of sexually active people have the HPV virus. There are over 100 types or strains of HPV.

Sexually transmitted HPVs fall into two categories:

  • Low-risk HPVs which do not cause cancer but can cause skin warts on or around the genitals or anus. Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of Genital Warts.
  • High-risk HPVs which can cause cancer. Fourteen high-risk HPV types have been identified. Two of these, types 16 and 18, are responsible for the majority of HPV-caused cancers.

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Some high-risk types of HPV are known to lead to changes in the cervix which cause cancer. HPV is also linked to other cancers in both men and women including vulvar, penile, anal, throat and oral cancers.

There is no cure for HPV, however the symptoms of HPV, which include Genital Warts and cervical changes, can be treated. If you are sexually active or have symptoms of HPV, you should get tested regularly.

Why have a HPV test and Cervical Screening?

The purpose of HPV testing and screening of your cervix is to detect changes to the cells before they become cancerous, and to test for the presence of HPV virus types.

Better2Know offers a comprehensive suite of tests for women and men which offer a full examination of your HPV status, and cervical health for women.

For women, the following tests are available:

  1. Better2Know combined PAP Smear and HPV test - Recommended for women who are concerned about their HPV status and cervical health. This combined test will look for any changes to the cells of your cervix as well as testing your sample for 20 types of the HPV virus.
  2. Better2Know PAP Smear - Uses a small brush to collect cells from your cervix.  These cells will be examined for any trace of abnormalities. With this test, and only if any abnormalities are detected, the sample will be automatically tested for the relevant HPV virus types.
  3. Better2Know HPV test - Obtains a sample from an appropriate site which is tested using a PCR method to detect up to 14 High Risk and 6 Low Risk viral types. It should be noted that this test may disrupt the cells of the cervix rendering them unsuitable to PAP testing for a period of time.

Results are available five days from when the sample is received in the laboratory.

Who can have a Smear Test?

A Smear Test (or PAP Smear) is available through Better2Know for all Irish women who are worried about cervical cancer, including young women. It is only suitable for women.

When should I have a Smear Test?

A Smear Test is used to screen women who may be at high risk of developing cervical cancer. Better2Know Smear Tests are very accurate at any stage of your menstrual cycle, however we do ask you to check that you are not bleeding on the day of your test as this will make it much harder to collect a sample of cells.

In the past it has been advised to test in the middle of your cycle (day 1 is the first day of your period). With the Better2Know Smear Test, this is no longer necessary. If you are sexually active you should have a regular Smear Test, starting from around twelve months after you are sexually active.

Did you know? …

HPV infections are recognised as the cause of 99.7% of cervical cancers, but HPV also causes anal, mouth and throat cancers. Click here to see the full article.

What happens during my Smear Test?

At your appointment, your Better2Know clinician will take a small sample of cells from your cervix. Firstly, they will answer any questions you have and help you to feel at ease. They will ask you to remove your underwear (you may prefer to wear a dress or skirt so you can keep this on). Your clinician will let you know what they are doing throughout the sample collection.

When you are ready, a speculum will be gently inserted into your vagina. It is usually made of plastic and opens up the vagina a little so that the clinician can see your cervix. This can be a little bit uncomfortable but does not hurt. The clinician will explain everything to you and help you to relax.

The clinician will quickly collect a sample of cells from the cervix using a small brush, and the test will be over. This sample is then sent to our accredited laboratory for analysis. The results will be back in five working days from when your sample is received in the laboratory.

What do the results mean?

The test looks for abnormal or pre-cancerous cells in your cervix. For most women, the results will be normal, and it will be recommended that you get re-tested in three years time. 

If your test detects any borderline changes to your cervical cells, Better2Know will automatically test the sample to see if you have a HPV infection and, if so, which types of HPV. This will help to detect whether any borderline changes are as a result of an HPV infection.

HPV is a common cause of many cases of cervical cancer. If you have borderline cells and an HPV infection, we will help you to access further investigations to find out what is causing the changes in your cells.  

For a full picture of your cervical health, Better2Know recommends that you choose the combined Smear Test and HPV test.

What if I test positive for HPV?

Early detection enables you to receive the treatment you need as soon as possible. Better2Know can arrange a confidential follow-up consultation for you to access the appropriate treatment. Paying regular attention to your cervical health is essential to protect your wellbeing.

Even if you test positive for a high-risk HPV type, it does not mean that you will go on to develop cervical cancer. Your specialist will be able to recommend follow-up tests and advise you on the most appropriate treatment.

Cervical cancer treatment differs depending on the stage of HPV infection and tumour growth. In the early stages, you might undergo surgery to remove a section of your womb, receive radiotherapy to eliminate cancerous cells or a combination of the two. In the later stages, chemotherapy may be combined with radiotherapy; surgery may also be necessary.

Vaccine

You can choose to have a vaccine that can protect you against certain high-risk types of HPV which cause cervical cancer (types 16 and 18). There are two vaccines available and are considered 99% effective against the highest risk strains of HPV. 

Book your HPV test

Better2Know is the world’s largest private provider of sexual health testing services. We will arrange a confidential appointment at a clinic near you with fast and accurate results for your peace of mind. Book online or call our Sexual Health Advisors now.

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