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Home Ask the Experts Ask the Experts Does the Pap test detect all types of HPV?
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I have recently been diagnosed with genital warts. My wife had her Pap test a month or so later and it was normal. My question is will the Pap detect all types of HPV?

Pap tests don't look directly for HPV infections. Rather, they can find abnormal cell changes (such as those caused by HPV). Paps can often detect cells that are suggestive of what you'd expect an HPV-infected cell to look like, then, but still won’t find the virus. A woman with HPV who has no abnormal cell changes will have a normal Pap test result, even though she has the virus. Keep in mind that the vast majority of women with HPV never have even a single abnormal Pap as a result!

An HPV test, on the other hand, can detect the virus itself. These tests are only approved, though, for use in combination with a Pap as part of cervical cancer screening for women age 30 and over (the tests can also be used for women over age 21 who have slightly abnormal or unclear Pap test results).

Keep in mind that external, visible genital warts are almost always caused by “low risk” types of HPV that aren’t linked to cervical cancer. Since an HPV test done clinically will be looking for “high risk” types of the virus, your wife is not likely to have an abnormal test due to your warts diagnosis.

It is likely you and your wife both share HPV, even though she may well never be diagnosed with either the virus or a related condition. Couples typically clear the virus over time; some studies indicated that condom use helps couples clear the virus more quickly.