The HPV Test: How It Detects HPV and Prevents Cervical Cancer

Every woman must be equipped to take control of their health, and prioritising early detection is key to achieving this. Many disease conditions will be less life-threatening if only they are discovered early and one of these is cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. In Nigeria, it is the second most common cancer and cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Cervical cancer is caused by some high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

What is the HPV test? How does it help to detect the human papillomavirus (HPV)? What advantages does it have over other testing materials? This post will answer all these questions and empower you to make informed choices about your health.

What is the HPV Test?

As the name implies, the HPV test directly detects the presence of high-risk HPV strains in the cervix. Also known as the HPV DNA test, it is a quick and painless procedure, similar to a pap smear. 

What makes it so revolutionary is that instead of merely looking for cell abnormalities in the cervix (like the pap smear test), it directly identifies the viral DNA. By addressing the root cause, the HPV test presents a more accurate and comprehensive way to identify women at risk of cervical cancer.

To perform the test, a healthcare professional collects a sample of cells from the cervix using a gentle brush. First, a speculum is put into the vagina to separate the walls of the vagina so the cervix can be reached. Then a brush or a flat spatula is used to collect the cell samples from the surface of the cervix. This sample is then sent to a lab for analysis, where it’s tested for the presence of the HPV strains.

Newer methods for testing involve the use of at-home kits. These kits provide private, discreet testing that can be done at the user’s convenience.

Why You Need the HPV Test



In 2020, the World Health Assembly adopted the Global Strategy for cervical cancer elimination. According to the strategy, 90% of girls will receive the HPV vaccine by the age of 15. Such an emphasis on early HPV testing suggests that there are several benefits to be derived from it. Some of these benefits are outlined below;

  • Early Detection: The HPV test can detect HPV infections even before they cause any cell changes, allowing for earlier intervention and prevention of cervical cancer.
  • High Accuracy: The HPV test is highly accurate, with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity for detecting high-risk HPV strains.
  • Reduced Anxiety: By identifying women who are truly at risk, the HPV test can alleviate unnecessary anxiety associated with abnormal pap smear results.
  • Fewer Invasive Procedures: Early detection through the HPV test can reduce the need for colposcopy and biopsy, which can be uncomfortable and invasive.
  • Accessibility and Affordability: Services like Healthtracka prioritise making the HPV test accessible and affordable for women across Nigeria, breaking down financial barriers to essential healthcare.
  • Longer Testing Interval: Unlike the Pap smear recommended every 1-3 years, the HPV test can be done less frequently, typically every 5 years for women over 30 years old.

What if you test positive for HPV?

Don’t panic! A positive HPV test doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop cervical cancer. Most HPV infections clear up naturally. However, it’s crucial to follow your doctor’s recommendations, which might include:

  • Regular monitoring: Close observation through further HPV tests or Pap smears helps track any changes.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Certain lifestyle factors like smoking can increase cancer risk. Your doctor can guide you towards healthier habits.
  • Vaccination (if eligible): HPV vaccination, even after exposure, can still offer protection against future high-risk infections.

Take Control of Your Health

By understanding the HPV test and its role in early detection, you can take control of your health and prevent cervical cancer. Even as we mark the cervical cancer awareness month, remember that knowledge is power and proactive measures like regular screening can save lives.

Reach out to Healthtracka to get tested for HPV today.

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