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The term "HPV negative" means that a female likely does not have the human papillomavirus virus, which may cause cervical cancer in some women. While being HPV negative is a good thing, it does not necessarily mean a woman has no risk of cervical cancer because there are other causes as well. The HPV test is different from the Pap test, though it is possible the samples collected during the Pap test could be used to determine if someone is HPV negative or positive, thus making it very convenient for the patient.
Unlike a Pap test, which returns a result of normal, abnormal, or inconclusive, the HPV test generally comes back as either positive or negative. If the Pap test comes back abnormal, but the other test returns a result of HPV negative, it may require further study by a gynecologist. In such cases, the most important matter is to determine why one test shows a normal, or negative result, and the other shows an abnormal result. Seemingly contradictory results do not mean that the virus is present, but it could be.
The accuracy of the HPV test is very high, especially when it is combined with a normal Pap result. Those who are found to be HPV negative can be almost completely sure they do not have the virus. In fact, the accuracy of both tests together is more than 99.9 percent. If results are contradictory, the confidence factor may go down somewhat. That is why follow-up care is so important.
In order to get an HPV negative test, the cells examined must have no trace of HPV DNA. Generally, this DNA will be present in sufficient enough quantities that it will be detected upon examination. That is why the accuracy of the test is so high. Even if the presence of HPV is detected, it does not mean that a woman is going to get cervical cancer; it simply increases the risks.
Even with an HPV negative test, it is important to get tested periodically in order to ensure that problems do not come up later on. The most common risk factor for HPV is being sexually active, especially with multiple partners, which increases the risk. Therefore, those who initially test HPV negative should not assume they will remain so throughout the course of their entire lives. Staying negative often depends on selection of partners, and using protection while engaging in sexual activities.