What is human papillomavirus?
Human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. There are many types of HPV. Some types cause genital warts, while other types don't cause any symptoms. More aggressive forms of HPV are connected with cancer of the cervix or, less often, cancer of the penis.
You may not know that your cervix is infected with HPV until a Pap test shows abnormal cells. When you have a Pap test (or "smear"), the doctor scrapes some cells from your cervix and looks at them under a microscope.
HPV Testing in the Evaluation of the Minimally Abnormal Papanicolaou Smear by BS Apgar, M.D., M.S., and G Brotzman, M.D. (American Family Physician May 15, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990515ap/2794.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff