Anyone who has ever had sex can have HPV; it's so common that 4 in 5 people will have had HPV at some time in their lives. In most cases, it clears up by itself within 3 years. In rare cases, if the virus persists and is left undetected, it can lead to cervical cancer. This usually takes about 10 years.
While HPV is very common, most women with HPV will not develop cervical cancer. It's still very important for any woman aged 25 to 74 who has ever been sexually active to have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years. The Cervical Screening Test detects HPV on the cervix, and has replaced the Pap smear.
Last reviewed: January 2018