About the Test
Purpose of the test
HPV testing is widely used and commonly recommended by doctors, but the role of at-home HPV testing in routine medical care is not clearly defined.
When ordered by a doctor, HPV testing is primarily used as a method of screening patients for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening tests detect cancer, or cells that may become cancerous, before a person experiences symptoms.
Because most cervical cancers are caused by HPV, regular cervical cancer screening allows patients infected with high-risk HPV strains to be monitored effectively. Any abnormal cervical cells detected by a cervical cancer screening test can be removed before they develop into cancer. Women and transgender men who have a cervix should discuss cervical cancer screening with their doctor.
HPV infections can cause several other types of cancer, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva. However, current at-home HPV tests are not designed to detect infections in these parts of the body.
For more information on the role of HPV testing in cervical cancer screening, see our HPV Test page.
What does the test measure?
Samples collected during an at-home HPV test are analyzed in a laboratory for the genetic material, or DNA, of high-risk types of HPV. Although there are over 100 known strains of HPV, only high-risk strains are associated with cancer. At-home HPV testing does not detect low-risk strains of HPV, which can cause warts on the genitals, anus, mouth, and throat.
Although at-home HPV tests can detect up to 14 different strains of high-risk HPV, not every test identifies the specific strain causing a patient’s infection. Some at-home HPV tests do identify the specific strain of HPV in a sample of cells, a process called HPV genotyping.
When should I get an at-home HPV test?
Although at-home HPV tests may serve as a screening tool for communities that have limited access to health care professionals, patients should have a discussion with their doctor about the pros and cons of at-home HPV testing. A doctor can also help patients decide on an appropriate timeline for cervical cancer screening tests and whether at-home HPV testing is a good option.
Benefits and Downsides of At-Home HPV Testing
At-home HPV testing has both benefits and disadvantages for patients seeking cervical cancer screening. Benefits of at-home HPV testing include:
- Increased access: At-home HPV testing allows more women to be screened for cervical cancer. Without having to see a doctor, people in communities with limited access to health care professionals can access this important screening tool.
- Less invasive: Unlike when cervical cells are obtained in a health care setting, at-home HPV tests don’t require a sample of cells scraped directly from the cervix. A self-collected vaginal swab allows patients to be tested for an HPV infection without a pelvic exam or use of a speculum.
- Clear pricing: Purchasing an at-home HPV testing kit allows patients to clearly identify the total cost of HPV testing. Patients can better budget for cervical cancer screening tests without any hidden doctor or laboratory fees.
Disadvantages of at-home HPV testing include:
- Research is ongoing: While at-home HPV testing is already used in some parts of the world, more research is needed to determine the best ways for patients to collect samples.
- Results without a doctor’s guidance: Interpreting the results of HPV tests can be confusing. While some at-home HPV testing companies connect patients to a health care provider who can help answer questions, seeing HPV test results without immediate access to a doctor can cause anxiety for some patients.
- Need for follow-up testing: If a patient’s at-home HPV test result is positive, it’s important to talk to a doctor to discuss follow-up tests or treatment.
- Not covered by insurance: Most health insurance plans cover HPV tests administered by a health professional without requiring a copay or deductible. In contrast, at-home HPV tests are typically paid out-of-pocket and may not be covered by a person’s health insurance plan.
Types of At-Home Tests
There are a number of options for at-home HPV testing. The following sections include our selections for the best at-home HPV tests:
LetsGetChecked – HPV Test
Price: $89 (Get 25% off with your exclusive Testing.com discount code. Use code TESTING25 at checkout.)
Sample: Cervical swab
Results timeline: About 21 days
LetsGetChecked accepts flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) cards to pay for this reasonably priced test that checks for 14 high-risk types of HPV.
Please contact UPS to arrange a pickup before you collect your sample. You should collect your sample on the same day as the pickup is scheduled for. Visit the UPS pickup scheduling page or call 1-800-742-5877 to schedule a pickup to return your sample. You’ll be asked to provide some information including your tracking number, pickup address and pickup day and time. Please keep your tracking number to help you track your package.
LetsGetChecked’s CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited labs meet established quality control standards. Results are provided through a secure online account.
The average processing time is 21 days from when a sample arrives at one of LetsGetChecked’s partner laboratories. According to the company, this delay is due to worldwide shortages of one of the chemicals used during lab testing.
LetsGetChecked offers a dedicated team of nurses who are available 24/7 to walk you through the testing process and explain test results.
Everlywell – HPV Test
Sample: Vaginal swab
Results timeline: Within a few business days
The Everlywell HPV Test is our pick for clearest results due to the company’s user-friendly online platform for viewing your test outcome. A personalized report of each HPV marker is combined with educational tips to help you understand what your results mean.
Screening for HPV with Everlywell is straightforward and easy. Order your kit online, register it on Everlywell’s website, and collect your sample from the privacy of your home. This HPV test uses a vaginal swab sample to test for 14 high-risk strains of HPV.
Once your sample is collected, just drop it in the mail and your results will be available within a few business days. Everlywell’s secure platform is HIPAA compliant, and the company guarantees that your health data will never be sold.
Tests ordered through Everlywell are reviewed by an independent, board-certified physician in your state. If your HPV test results are positive, a physician will reach out to you to discuss the next steps.
Sample: Vaginal swab
Results timeline: Within 2 to 5 days
If you’re looking for an HPV test that is quick and easy, try the At Home HPV Test from myLAB Box. With free two-day shipping and an impressive turnaround of 2 to 5 days, myLAB Box’s product is our pick for fastest HPV test results.
Testing with myLAB Box is simple. Just order your kit on the company’s website, and it is shipped to you directly and discreetly. Collecting your sample takes less than five minutes, allowing you to mail it to the laboratory on the same day.
The myLAB Box kit tests for 14 high-risk types of HPV. Your results will be sent via email. If you have any questions or concerns about your test results, the company offers free phone consultations with physicians.
Best for People Without Insurance
Nurx – Home HPV Test Kit
Price: $79 ($49 with insurance)
Sample: Vaginal swab
Results timeline: About 7 days
For people who aren’t using insurance to cover the cost of HPV screening, Nurx is a great option to consider. Purchasing the Home HPV Test Kit without insurance costs $79, plus an additional $15 consultation fee for unlimited access to Nurx’s medical team for one year to discuss your test results.
The testing process is straightforward and hassle-free. Nurx’s website offers detailed videos that walk you through the testing process.
Be sure to wait at least two days after your period and spotting ends before using the kit’s swab to collect a sample of vaginal cells to test for 14 high-risk HPV strains. Then just package your sample according to the instructions provided and mail it to the company’s HIPAA-compliant and CLIA-certified partner lab. You’ll be notified when your results are available, usually in about seven days.
Once you receive your result, Nurx’s physicians are available to discuss any questions that come up over the next year.
Interpreting At-Home Test Results
Results of at-home HPV tests are reported as either positive or negative. A positive test result means that a high-risk strain of HPV was detected in the sample. A negative result means that a high-risk strain of HPV was not detected in the sample. If HPV genotyping was performed, results may include the individual strain of HPV detected.
It’s important to discuss test results with a doctor who can help you determine the meaning of your result and what it may mean for your health.
Are test results accurate?
No test is 100% accurate. Although HPV testing is a routine aspect of cervical cancer screening, both false positive and false negative results can occur. Researchers are still learning about the accuracy of at-home HPV testing, but results of large studies suggest that self-collected samples may be nearly as effective at detecting severely abnormal cervical cell changes as samples collected by a doctor.
Do I need follow-up tests?
If an at-home HPV test result is negative, whether a patent requires follow-up testing depends on their history of cervical cancer screening. In many cases, a patient’s doctor will advise repeating the HPV test using traditional testing methods in a medical office.
Questions for your doctor after at-home testing
A doctor is in the best position to address questions about at-home HPV testing and a patient’s test results. Here are some questions that may be helpful to review with your doctor:
- Is at-home HPV testing a reasonable option for me?
- If I receive a positive result from an at-home HPV test, what follow-up care may be necessary?
- What does my test result mean for my future cervical cancer screening?
- Am I a good candidate for HPV vaccination?
How does laboratory and at-home HPV testing compare?
At-home HPV testing still requires patients to mail their self-collected sample into a laboratory for analysis, so both at-home and in-lab testing are able to utilize similar technology to detect the virus. Both approaches are considered accurate, although there may be some improvement in accuracy when samples are collected by a doctor rather than by a patient.
Some of the differences between in-lab and at-home HPV testing include:
- Sample collection: When a sample is collected by a doctor for an HPV test, the sample is taken directly from the tissue of the cervix using a brush, spatula, or scraper. In contrast, an at-home HPV test uses a sample of cells collected from a patient’s vagina.
- Type of analysis: Although both approaches detect the genetic material of HPV, doctors have more options for choosing a type of HPV test and HPV genotyping.
- No option for cotesting: At-home HPV tests only look for high-risk strains of the HPV virus and can’t detect abnormalities that have already developed on the cervix. Because a Pap smear can’t be performed at home, cotesting isn’t an option without seeing a doctor.