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DrSugar Answers: HPV Positive With a Negative Pap?

DrSugar is in the house and answering your questions.

Dear DrSugar,
I am 38 years old and just had a Pap test. My Pap test was normal but my HPV test was positive. Is that common? How can I have a normal Pap and but still have HPV? My doc wants me to come in and have a repeat Pap test in six months, but what is this repeat Pap for? I am totally freaking out about having HPV. I was never tested for HPV prior to this; is that because they don’t usually test for HPV until after you're 30?
— Upset About HPV

To see what DrSugar has to say about this issue, just


The first thing you should know is that human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus that causes a wide range of disease from simple warts to abnormal Pap smears and cervical cancer. HPV often creates no symptoms, and the virus doesn't always lead to a disease like cervical cancer; in fact, that is relatively rare. You can test positive for HPV but later test negative if your body’s immune system effectively fights the virus off over time. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of women contract HPV at some point in their lives, however a very small percentage of these women develop cervical cancer. This is probably why you have a positive HPV test but a normal Pap smear. The reason your doctor wants to repeat the Pap smear in six months is because having HPV increases your risk for developing cervical cancer. There is a good chance that your HPV infection will go away and cause no problems; however, it is important to get frequent Pap smears to check for cervical cancer.

Testing for HPV is recommended for women over 30 as a supplement to Pap smears. The reason for this is medical studies have shown that a positive test in this age group places you at a higher risk for cervical cancer. Therefore, if you have a positive HPV test and a negative Pap smear, your doctor will often recommend getting more frequent Pap smears. There is certainly no need to freak out about having HPV. It is very, very common, and frequent follow-ups with your doctor should prevent potential problems. For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute HPV Q and A, the Mayo Clinic HPV information page, and check out a previous DrSugar post regarding the HPV vaccine.

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DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

Join The Conversation
psucaniac psucaniac 7 years
Hi All - Thanks for sharing your experiences, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one in this boat. I just got the results back from my annual - normal pap and positive for high risk HPV (didn't specify the type[s]). My doctor told me that all I needed to do was come back in a year for my annual pap... Is that a normal answer for someone under 30? Also, has anyone heard of these results coming up for someone who has been in a committed relationship for 5.5 years?? While I have been getting pap smears for 6 or 7 years, I'm not sure if I've ever been tested for HPV before, but I find it odd (and of course I am not even remotely close to being a doctor) that if all is well, the HPV hasn't gone away yet? Thank you in advance for any insight/advice!
pixelhaze pixelhaze 8 years
I had the shots, as did my teenage sister and my mom, all at the same time last year. They're really pushing those now! I did it cus my ob recommended it, but with everything I've read about hpv since I wonder if it was really necessary.
c-a-t-h c-a-t-h 8 years
It is possible to have it clear away on it's own over time. I had several positive test from 19 until I was about 22 and now I've been free and clear for the last several years. Keep your chin up!
foxie foxie 8 years
They wouldn't lie to you about having it, plus it's so common. It's not unrealistic for you to have it. All I'm saying is don't freak out about it. Do what your doctor says if it's what makes you comfortable, but don't buy in to the panic, ok? I just blew off doing anything about mine (I was supposed to have a biopsy), and then had a follow up test that showed it had gone away on its own, which it occasionally does.
356UIK 356UIK 8 years
Really? I hope you're right foxie. Sometimes I wonder if I really have it. I mean they could just make it up so that I have to get the surgery etc etc etc? Guess I am a bit paranoid and untrusting.
foxie foxie 8 years
The HPV overreaction is definitely caused by the new vaccine. Because it's profitable now, they make it out to be a huge deal all of a sudden. I had HPV in a pap 2 years ago, and 10 months later it had gone away on its own. Of course, that was only after the doctors tried to spook me with the possibility that maybe it was the type that might lead to a maybe cancerous cell, maybe. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.
356UIK 356UIK 8 years
I have it and I'm sad :(
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
Same thing happened to me Kate, all free and clear now. I know they test for HPV way before 30 also. I was tested at 22.
katebrandon katebrandon 8 years
This happened to me as well. In fact, to date, I've never had an abnormal pap but I was diagnosed with HPV over two years ago. Unfortunately, doctors can't test all of your cervix during a pap, and the dysplasia can be fleeting. However, I was able to clear the HPV infection with the help of my amazing OB-Gyn, so don't be discouraged!
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