Information for women about HPV test in the Cervical Screening Programme
When you go for your regular pelvic examination, your doctor will examine you and take a cervical swab in the same way as before.
What's new is that your sample will be tested for human papillomavirus (HPV) instead of the usual microscopic examination in the lab.
The reason for this is that by using HPV testing instead of microscopic examination of the sample, cell changes can be detected at an earlier stage and precancerous lesions can be treated more quickly.
This in turn will contribute to fewer women developing cervical cancer in the long term.
HPV test for younger women
From 2023, HPV testing will also be used for women between 25-33 years. From 1. January 2023 for women between the ages of 30 – 33, and from January 1, 2023. July 2023 for women between the ages of 25 – 29.
The explanation for why this age group has not been tested for HPV before is that it isvery common for young people to have an ongoing HPV infection, which often goes away on its own. If an HPV infection is detected, this can lead to unnecessary worry, and to overinvestigation and overtreatment.
However, in recent years there has been an increasing incidence of cervical cancer in Norway, especially among younger women.
This may be because there have been too few people who have taken a cervical swab for a long time when they are reminded. Among the unvaccinated, there has also been a sharp increase in HPV infection.
Negative HPV test
If your HPV test does not detect HPV, you can wait five years before taking another test, unless you have genital symptoms, which requires a separate medical check-up.
Previously, the recommendation was to take a new cervical swab every three years for a normal screening test. It is at least as safe, if not more, to wait five years to take another sample after a negative HPV test than to wait more than three years after a normal cytology.
Positive HPV test
If your HPV test detects HPV, the lab will also examine cells in your sample with a microscope and send results to your doctor.
Your doctor is responsible for calling you in for follow-up and further assessment if needed. At the same time, your doctor will give you the information you need.
You can find more information about follow-up, assessment and treatment as well as your rights on the website of the Cervical Screening Programme:
HPV test and HPV infection
An HPV test is a good preventive measure against cervical cancer. Women with a positive HPV test are monitored closely, and any cell changes can be detected in the early phase and treated.
If you test positive for HPV, it does not necessarily mean that you will develop cervical cancer. Many people have the virus in them without it resulting in disease.
It is estimated that up to 70-80% of all sexually active adults become infected with HPV once or more during their lifetime.
Most HPV infections are transient, and cause a symptom-free pelvic infection that in most people goes away on its own within a couple of years without developing into disease. The body's immune system takes care of the virus.
In many cases, the HPV test can be positive while the cells examined under the microscope are normal. This indicates that you are infected with the HPV virus, but that there are no cell changes requiring treatment.
In such cases, you will be offered a new HPV test within one year to be able to follow developments. The likelihood that you will get rid of the virus is high in all cases.
A chronic infection with one of the cancer-causing HPV types, if not detected and treated, can cause cervical cancer within 15-20 years. Survival for cervical cancer is good, but serious persistent side effects follow after treatment (including childlessness, lymphoedema and pain).
It is currently known that HPV in approximately 99% of cases is the cause of severe cell changes on the cervix and the development of cervical cancer.