Carolinas HealthCare System
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FAQs for Cytology

What is human papilloma virus (HPV)?
Human papilloma virus is a sexually transmitted infection. Infection with HPV is very common, and it is estimated that eight out of 10 adults will have HPV at some point in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms and most women will never know they have it. In most cases it is fought off by the immune system. In a small percentage of women, however, the infection can cause pre-cancerous changes in the cervix (called dysplasia), that, if left untreated, could lead to cervical cancer. Certain abnormalities identified by the Pap test may prompt your physician to perform an HPV test. A positive test does not mean the patient has cancer or will develop cancer. It indicates the need for further examination.