What Does a Positive hrHPV Test Result Mean?

Medically Reviewed on 2/10/2023
Positive hrHPV Test Result
If your hrHPV test result is positive, it means you have been infected with one or more strains of HPV.

A high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) test is used to check for certain types of HPV that are known to be more likely to cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix or cancer

A positive hrHPV test result means that one or more of the high-risk types of HPV have been found in the cells of the cervix. It is important to follow up with your healthcare provider if you have a positive hrHPV test result to discuss the next steps and any necessary treatment.

Who are at a risk of having hrHPV-positive results?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a sexually transmitted infection. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of HPV infection although some people may be at a higher risk than others.

Some factors that can increase the risk of HPV infection include:

  • Having multiple sexual partners: The more sexual partners a person has, the higher their risk of HPV infection.
  • Having unprotected sex: Using condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activity can help reduce the risk of HPV infection.
  • Having a weakened immune system: People with HIV or AIDS or those taking immunosuppressive medications may have a higher risk of HPV infection.
  • Being a young adult: HPV infection is more common in people in their late teens and early 20s.
  • Smoking: Smoking has been linked to a high risk of HPV-related cancer.

HPV can be transmitted through any sexual activity involving genital contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It is also possible to contract HPV from skin-to-skin contact, so it is possible to get HPV even if there is no penetration.

What to do if hrHPV test result is positive

If your human papillomavirus (HPV) test result is positive, it means you have been infected with one or more strains of HPV. There are many types of HPV, and some can cause health problems, such as genital warts and certain types of cancer.

Steps to take if your HPV test is positive:

  • Follow up with your healthcare provider: Follow up with your healthcare provider after receiving a positive HPV test result. They can provide you with more information about the specific type of HPV you have and discuss any necessary next steps.
  • Get screened for cervical cancer: If you are a woman who has received a positive HPV test result, get screened for cervical cancer. This can be done through a Pap or HPV test, which can detect changes in the cells of the cervix that may be precancerous or cancerous.
  • Consider getting the HPV vaccine: If you have not already received the HPV vaccine, you may want to consider bringing it. The HPV vaccine can help protect against certain types of HPV that can cause cancer. It is typically recommended for people aged between 9 and 26 years.
  • Practice safe sex: To reduce your risk of HPV infection, practice safe sex, such as using condoms or dental dams during sexual activity.
  • Take care of your overall health: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking, can help reduce your risk of HPV-related health problems.

Having an HPV infection does not necessarily mean that you will develop health problems. Many people who have HPV infection do not experience any symptoms, and their immune systems can clear the infection on their own. However, it is still essential to follow up with your healthcare provider and take steps to reduce your risk of any related health problems.


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What are the common risks involved in hrHPV testing?

High-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing is a safe and effective way to screen for cervical cancer and other conditions related to hrHPV infection.

There are a few risks to consider when undergoing hrHPV testing, such as:

  • False-negative results: The test does not detect the presence of hrHPV although the person is infected. This can occur if the sample is not collected properly or if the person is in the early stages of infection. False-negative results can lead to a false sense of security and delay in seeking necessary treatment.
  • False-positive results: The test indicates the presence of hrHPV although the person is not infected. False-positive results can lead to unnecessary follow-up tests and procedures, which can be stressful and potentially harmful.
  • Discomfort during sample collection: hrHPV tests involve collecting a sample of cells from the cervix, which can be uncomfortable for some people. The discomfort is usually mild and only lasts a few minutes.
  • Risk of infection: There is a small risk of infection with any medical procedure that involves inserting an instrument into the body. However, the risk of infection from hrHPV testing is low and can be minimized by following proper infection control procedures.
  • Risk of bleeding: There is a small risk of bleeding after hrHPV testing, which usually resolves on its own. In rare cases, heavy bleeding may occur and require medical attention.
  • Emotional impact: The thought of having a cancer screening test can be stressful, and some people may feel anxious or distressed while waiting for the results. It is important to discuss any concerns or feelings with a healthcare provider.

What are the additional tests that may be recommended if hrHPV test comes out positive?

If a high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) test comes out positive, the next step is to undergo a colposcopy. This is a procedure in which a healthcare provider uses a special microscope called a colposcope to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva for abnormalities. The colposcope allows the provider to get a magnified view of the tissue and identify abnormal cells or growths.

Other tests that may be recommended after a positive hrHPV test result include:

  • Biopsy: During a biopsy, a small tissue sample is taken from the cervix or other affected area and sent to a laboratory for testing. A biopsy can help confirm the presence of abnormal cells and determine if they are cancerous.
  • Cervical conization (also called a cone biopsy): A cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix for testing. It is typically used to confirm the diagnosis of cervical cancer or to determine the extent of abnormal cells in the cervix.
  • Pap test: Also known as a Pap smear and is a procedure in which a sample of cells is taken from the cervix and examined under a microscope. It is used to detect abnormal cells or the presence of cancer.

Many people who test positive for hrHPV do not go on to develop cancer. However, it is important to follow up with recommended testing and treatment to ensure that any abnormal cells are detected and treated promptly.

What are the treatment options for people with positive hrHPV?

High-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) infection is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause abnormal changes in cells in the cervix, anus, and other areas of the body. If a person tests positive for hrHPV, the treatment will depend on the type of hrHPV infection and the location and extent of the abnormal cell changes.

Here is a general overview of the treatment options for hrHPV-positive people:

  • Observation: In some cases, hrHPV infection may resolve independently without treatment. If the abnormal cell changes are minor and not causing any symptoms, the healthcare provider may recommend close monitoring and follow-up visits to check for any changes.
  • Cryotherapy: Involves freezing abnormal cells with liquid nitrogen. This can be an effective treatment option for hrHPV infections that cause abnormal cell changes in the cervix or anus.
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure: Uses an electrified wire loop to remove abnormal cells from the cervix or anus. This can effectively treat hrHPV infections that cause more significant cell changes.
  • Laser therapy: Uses a focused beam of light to remove abnormal cells. It can be an effective treatment option for hrHPV infections that cause abnormal cell changes in the cervix or anus.
  • Conization: Also known as a cone biopsy and involves removing a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix. This procedure is usually reserved for hrHPV infections that cause more significant cell changes or those that do not respond to other treatments.
  • Hysterectomy: In severe cases, a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) may be necessary to treat hrHPV infection. This is typically only recommended if other treatment options have failed or the hrHPV disease has caused cancerous changes to the cervix.

hrHPV infection can be prevented with the use of condoms and vaccination. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls aged 11 to 12 years and can be given to individuals aged up to 45 years.

What is the outcome of people who are hrHPV-positive?

There are more than 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV), and not all of them are associated with cancer.

  • Some types of HPV, known as high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV), can cause cancer of the cervix, anus, and other parts of the body.
  • Other types, known as "low-risk" HPV, can cause genital warts but do not cause cancer.

Most people with hrHPV infection do not develop cancer or any other serious health issues, and many do not even know they are infected because the infection frequently has no symptoms. However, if left unchecked, hrHPV can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix or other parts of the body, leading to cancer.

Early detection and treatment of abnormal cells can help prevent cancer from developing. Practice safe sex to reduce the risk of contracting hrHPV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Medically Reviewed on 2/10/2023
Image Source: iStock image

HPV and Pap Test Results: Next Steps after an Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening Test: https://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/screening/abnormal-hpv-pap-test-results

I have HPV, now what? https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/i-have-hpv--now-what-.h13-1592991.html

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/human-papillomavirus-hpv-test/

What’s the Treatment for HPV? https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/hpv-genital-warts/hpv-treatment-is-there-hpv-cure