If you have HPV is it always detectable in a pap smear?

by Rachel on May 25, 2011

I just recently found out that someone I know, in her thirties, has gotten cervical cancer. I have never been told I have had HPV by my gynecologist, but i was wondering, can that virus hide and go away, and then come back, making it undetectable sometimes? or if you do have it, will it always show up on a pap smear test? i am just curious because it seems like friend after friend tells me that they have been diagnosed with HPV. (but also i am in the process of my HPV/gardisil vaccine, i have one more to go) thanks so much!!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

manik May 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm

no, not always detectable in a pap smear…

texas_angel_wattitude May 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm

This is from personal experiance. All those years of you getting pap smears they were looking for HPV {and other issues ofcourse}. However I have had my paps every yr since I was 21 never missed a year. Had a pap shortly before I got pregnant with my son and even while I was pregnant with him all were negative. At my 7 week post pardum check up it came back that I had HPV strains 16-18 {as you may know these are the two high risk cancer causing stains} and a few of the non cancer causing strains too. I was then checked every 3 months each coming up HPV positive and the one in december showed “atypical cell formation”. My pap in March came back normal. But I still have to go in every 4-6 months for continued monitoring because YES it does go away and come back {yes my partner and I are faithful} so the answer is YES it can lay dorminate during a pap(undetectable). I too plan on getting HPV vaccine when it is approved for my age group {meaning over 26 right now it for girls ages 9-26}. I dont look at the vaccine as “protecting against an std” I look at it how the medical professionals look at it “protecting against cancer”

Superfox May 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

it will never show up on a pap smear. A pap smear shows any changes in the cells of ther cervix, not what caused them. As far as I know, HPV is diagnosed via blood test.

Although HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer, it’s not the only cause. No other causes will show up on a pap smear, as I said, the pap only detects changes in the cells, not the cause.

All the best to your friend :)

JLee May 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm

NO it is not always detectable, nor is it always active… you can have a normal pap for many years and all of a sudden have one come back with abnormal results…often called cellular displasia….then a doctor would likely have the lab do a HPV test which would tell them what strains of the virus are present

The Gardisil vaccine is only for like 3 or 4 strains of the virus..it DOES NOT protect against all the strains and there are MANY.

On another not HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the USA…the percent of the population that carries it and doesnt even know is amazing.

tarnishedsilverheart May 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

A Pap test looks for abnormal cell changes, but a Pap test can miss these changes so it is important to have annual Pap test with HPV testing. http://www.thehpvtest.com

A normal Pap test does not mean “no chance of cancer.” It means there is a very low chance that cervical cancer is present. Because the Pap test is not perfect and can sometimes miss irregularities, including cancer, you should have the test on a regular basis to decrease the chance of missing cervical cancer or dysplasia If you notice unusual vaginal symptoms, such as bleeding between periods or pain during intercourse, you should see your health care provider even if your last Pap test was normal.


The Pap test is a very good screening test, but it is not perfect. A single Pap test may miss up to 20 percent of abnormalities. Changes that are missed once are usually found the next time.


All so HPV can regress and reoccur.

Your Pap test looks for abnormal cells your HPV test shows you have one or more of the 13 high risk types the test screens for.

You can test negative for high risk HPV and still have the virus. The HPV test will not show abnormal if there is not enough cells in the testing sample or your body is keeping the virus suppressed.

HPV test are standard of care for the woman over 30 or your doctor may order this test at any time.

They are about 15 high risk HPV types. The vaccine only prevents two high risk HPV types 16 and 18. The vaccine also does not treat the HPV types that you have. If your HPV test was positive you one or more of the 13 high risk HPV types the HPV test screens for.

Even though you are getting the vaccine it is still important to have annual pelvic screenings Pap with HPV testing.

Clinical trails are hoping to show that the vaccine also helps the body build antibodies to the infection when they already have the virus.

Good luck with the vaccine.

momo83 May 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm

this depends if it dormant (sleeping) or not… that is why it very important to get paps annually

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