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A doctor speaking to a patient

When you visit your gynecologist for your annual exam, the results of the Pap smear may be abnormal. This does not always indicate the presence of cancer, however. Sometimes, it may indicate a human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. An HPV infection can sometimes cause precancerous changes. If the Pap smear is abnormal, the physician may conduct further tests on the sample to confirm the presence of HPV.

Another way in which an HPV infection might be detected is through the presence of genital warts. If genital warts are not visible, the gynecologist may apply a vinegar solution, which will “highlight” any warts and lesions infected by HPV. Then, a biopsy from the genital warts may be sent to the lab for analysis. Another method of diagnosing HPV infections is with a DNA test, which is recommended for women 30 years and older. The DNA test is performed on cervical cells. However, it is not intended to be a replacement for your usual Pap smear. Your gynecologist may recommend that you have both tests.

Washington Surgi-Clinic, a full-service gynecology office in Washington, D.C., offers comprehensive sexual health diagnostics and treatments. Those in Maryland and Virginia can schedule an exam by calling (202) 659-9403.