An existing infection with HPV may lead to genetic instability of the infected cells and eventually cervical cancer. In the course of carcinogenesis, changes (methylation) occur in the DNA.
If the Pap test is abnormal or the HPV test is positive in cervical cancer screening, the affected patient is suddenly in an exceptional situation, as both tests indicate a potential cancer. In many cases, however, no malignant disease is present and the positive test result was a false alarm. For definitive medical clarification, further examinations are necessary, such as a colposcopy, and if necessary, a colposcopy-guided biopsy. In case of abnormalities, the allegedly affected tissue is often removed prematurely.