Has your doctor told you that your abnormal Pap
smear result may be due to an infection with HPV?
Are you wondering what it is, how you got it and what
can be done about it?
Here's facts from an Australian report showing the link
between cervical cancer and HPV (Human Papilloma
• HPV is a virus (Human Papilloma Virus).
• Almost all abnormal Pap smear results are caused
• Anyone who has ever had sex can have HPV - it’s so
common that four out of ﬁve people will have had HPV
at sometime in their lives.
• In most cases, it clears up by itself in one to two years.
• In rare cases, if the virus persists and is left
undetected, it can lead to cervical cancer. This usually
takes about 10 years.
• A Pap smear every two years can detect any abnormal
cell changes caused by HPV, which can then be monitored
and/or treated to prevent cancer.
What is HPV?
How do I know if I have HPV?• Most people will have HPV at sometime and never
What does it mean if I have HPV?
How is HPV related to cancer of the cervix?
HPV infection is very common but in most people the
virus clears up naturally in one to two years. In a small
number of women, HPV stays in the cells of the cervix.
If the infection is not cleared, there is an increased risk
of cervical cancer. When cervical cancer develops,
HPV is found in almost all cases. Although HPV can cause
cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer, this will
usually take a long time - often more than 10 years.
A number of factors such as increasing age, smoking
and lowered immunity, together with the long term cell
changes caused by HPV, may increase the risk
of cervical cancer. It is important to have a Pap smear
every two years so that cell changes can be identified
and either watched until they clear up or be treated
when necessary. It is important to remember that most
women who have HPV clear the virus
naturally and do NOT go on to develop cervical cancer.
What should I tell my partner?
As HPV is so common, there is a strong chance that
anyone who has ever had sex has HPV, or has had it
in the past. You can have HPV for a long time with out
knowing it. It is possible you were infected recently,
or many months or years ago and the virus has stayed
undetected or dormant. People who discover they have
HPV may feel shocked, angry or upset. Because the
virus can be hidden in a person’s cells for a long time,
having a diagnosis of HPV does not necessarily mean
that you or your partner has been unfaithful. As we do
not know how long HPV can remain dormant, for most
people it is impossible to determine when and from
whom they got HPV. If you have HPV, it is quite likely
that your partner has it, too. If you have genital warts,
your partner may have them or may develop them.
It is also possible that neither of you will have any
symptoms at all. Remember, most people will clear
the virus from their body in about one or two years
without any harmful effects. If you or your partner are
concerned about HPV, talk to your doctor or go to a
sexual health centre for further advice. HPV and herpes
are not related. If you have HPV, it does not mean you
will have herpes.
Can I be tested for HPV?There is a test available that can identify certain types
• While HPV is very common, cervical cancer is not
• Most women with HPV will not develop cervical
• It usually takes around 10 years for changes to
cells caused by HPV to progress to cancer. Regular Pap
smears are your best protection against developing cervical