How to discuss the human papillomavirus infection with patients in primary care
Intended for healthcare professionals

How to discuss the human papillomavirus infection with patients in primary care

Imogen Pinnell Health Information Manager, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, London, England
Kate Sanger Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, London, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your understanding of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and how to discuss it with patients

  • To ensure your knowledge of the UK cervical screening programme is up to date

  • To count towards revalidation as part of your 35 hours of CPD, or you may wish to write a reflective account (UK readers)

  • To contribute towards your professional development and local registration renewal requirements (non-UK readers)

Human papillomavirus infection is extremely common and is often eliminated by the immune system without being detected or causing harm. However, in some cases, it becomes persistent, and can induce cell changes that may potentially lead to cancer. Despite HPV infection being common, there is a lack of knowledge about it, as well as associated misconceptions and stigma. The UK cervical screening programme is moving from cytology to HPV testing as the primary method of reducing the risk of cervical cancer. This means that many women will be diagnosed with HPV infection and may consequently have concerns or experience distress.

This article provides an overview of HPV, including its types, transmission, natural history, links to cancer and testing. It also explains how nurses working in primary care can discuss HPV infection with patients, providing information, reassurance and support.

Primary Health Care. 30, 5, 35-42. doi: 10.7748/phc.2020.e1666

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Pinnell I, Sanger K (2020) How to discuss the human papillomavirus infection with patients in primary care. Primary Health Care. doi: 10.7748/phc.2020.e1666

Published online: 05 August 2020

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