HPV in the early detection of cervical cancer

The HPV test

An HPV test needs not be uncomfortable in any way. Although a human papillomavirus infection is a sexually transmitted infection, almost every person is infected by HPV at least once in the lifetime. Both, men and women can be affected. An infection is harmless in most cases. In rare cases, however, cervical cancer can develop.

A smear test at the gynaecologist

For an HPV test, the gynaecologist uses a special brush to take a smear of the cervix. This is not painful and most women are already familiar with it. The doctor then sends the cell samples obtained to a laboratory. If the result is negative, no cervical cancer is to be expected. If the result is positive, the gynaecologist will contact the affected woman to discuss the next steps to be taken.

From harmless HPV warts to cancer

Depending on the type of human papillomaviruses, a variety of diseases can be triggered by an infection. To date, more than 200 HPV types are known. In professional circles, these are divided into high-risk and low-risk types. Low-risk types can cause unpleasant but not life-threatening diseases such as skin or genital warts. Whereas infection with high-risk types increases the risk of developing cancers such as cervical cancer.

When does an HPV infection develop into cancer?

It takes years before a human papillomavirus infection develops into cancer. If a cervical HPV infection does not clear on its own and persists for several years, abnormal cellular changes known as dysplasia sometimes develop. These may go into remission on their own as well.

The German Cancer Information Service calculates that among 100 women who have been infected with a high-risk HPV type, the infection only lasts significantly longer in 10 women. Even these infections can heal by themselves within one to two years. Only in less than one in 100 women does an human papillomavirus infection actually develop into cervical cancer. This process can take up to 15 years. Therefore, women who regularly attend cervical cancer screenings have a good chance that changes in the cervix are detected before cervical cancer develops.

If an HPV infection is present, the affected woman knows that her risk of developing cervical cancer is low. The infection must now be monitored, and further examinations may be necessary. GynTect® is an option.


This page is intended to give patients a summary overview of the topic. Reading this page does not replace a medical consultation or a discussion with your doctor.