Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Canada and worldwide.
HPV causes almost all cervical cancers but is also linked to cancer of the throat, oral cavity, penis, anus, vagina or vulva.
With an inactive infection, the cells of the cervix appear normal under a microscope during a Pap test and the woman may never know she was infected. With an active infection, the cervical cells undergo a change. An active infection can follow one of two courses:
- The abnormal cells become normal again and the infection is inactive or cleared from your body by your immune system. However, it is possible that an inactive infection can become active again, for reasons that aren’t clearly understood.
- The abnormal cells may slowly progress to cervical cancer.
HPV DNA testing is available in Canada but access varies across the country and is not often part of a woman’s regular check-up or Pap test. It is not covered by BC provincial health plan, and patients have to pay for HPV testing.