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Paul A. Offit, MD, explains what a Pap test is and how it is used to screen for changes in cervical cells caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
Paul Offit: Hi, my name's Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
One question we recently got from a woman who contacted us through our site was this, that her partner has genital warts, but she had had a Pap test and that Pap test had come back negative, does that mean then that she's not infected.
The straight answer to that is no; it doesn't mean that at all. When someone has genital warts invariably it's because it’s caused by human papillomavirus, and therefore the person who has it is certainly … can spread that virus from one person to another. What the Pap test tells you is it tells you that your cervical cells haven't started to change or be transformed on the way to becoming cancerous. But it doesn't mean you're not infected because, frankly, most people who are infected don't go on to develop those cervical changes on the way to cancer. So all it tells is that at least to date the infection that you may have gotten hasn't caused your cells to start to become cancerous. But it doesn't tell you at all that you haven't become infected.
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Vaccine Education Center