Why are Pap smears and biopsies performed?

The Pap smear looks for changes in the cervix that could be caused by an HPV infection. It also looks for cervical cancer. With early treatment, cancer of the cervix can be cured. There is an association between HPV infection and cervical cancer, so women with HPV must be watched carefully for cancer. The types of HPV that cause genital warts tend to be different than the types of HPV that cause cancer. However, because patients can carry more than one type of HPV infection, it is important to stay on track with the cervical cancer screening recommendations and appointments recommended by your doctor.

A tissue biopsy may be needed to take a close look at tissue cells under a microscope. This is sometimes required if the diagnosis of the wart is uncertain, or if abnormal cells have been identified on a Pap smear. The test looks for cells that show early signs of genital cancers.

How are genital warts treated?

You cannot treat genital warts yourself. If you think you have them, don't delay getting examined and treated. The longer genital warts go untreated, the more difficult they are to cure. With the help of a healthcare provider, genital warts are removed with the following methods:

  • Chemicals that dissolve the warts (applied by the health care provider or by the patient)
  • Laser lights or electric current
  • Freezing with a special device
  • Injections of medicine into the wart
  • Surgery (for warts that are large or difficult to treat)

Genital warts can come back, so you may need to return to the doctor for more treatment.

What should I do while I have the warts?

  • Keep the area as dry as possible.
  • Wear all-cotton underwear. Man-made fabrics can irritate the area and trap moisture.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/12/2014.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy