What a positive test for HP viruses means

Human papillomaviruses can cause cervical cancer - under certain conditions. If the virus test is positive at early detection, there is still no reason to panic

If HP viruses are detected in a cancer screening test, this can unsettle women. However, a positive test result often does not require treatment, according to the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg.

A positive test for human papilloma viruses should not be equated with a precancerous stage or even cancer, explains Susanne Weg-Remers, head of the cancer information service at the DKFZ. According to the expert, an HPV infection often runs without symptoms and is overcome by the immune system after a while.

Tissue changes that could be precursors for cervical cancer occur only in a small proportion of the longer-lasting infections. The HPV test is particularly helpful in assessing risk.

More tests - more positive results

For some time now, women over the age of 35 have been tested for HP viruses as part of the early diagnosis - and an increasing number of infections are detected accordingly.

If the test is negative, women aged 35 and over are only examined every three years, explains the cancer information service. A positive HPV test, on the other hand, indicates a clinically relevant HPV infection in the cervix, combined with an increased risk of developing a tissue change.

In this case, the next check will be carried out after a year. If the HPV test is still positive, an examination with a magnifying glass should be carried out within three months to determine whether there are any changes in the tissue. If the tissue is only slightly changed, it will first be checked further, according to the cancer information service. More pronounced changes could, however, be precancerous stages and would be removed as a precaution.

Vaccination recommendation for girls and boys

HP viruses are usually transmitted during sex - and there is a vaccination against them: It is recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for girls and boys and should be given between the ages of 9 and 14 years.