Screening programs for cervical cancer have traditionally involved clinician collected cervical samples for cytology (Pap Tests) and high-risk HPV testing. Because virtually all cervical cancers are caused by high risk HPV (HR-HPV), molecular assays detecting HR-HPV provide a better assessment of cancer risk than cytology.
Recent studies have shown that testing for HPV is more predictive, when negative, for a reduced risk of developing cervical cancer, and so a better strategy for cancer screening. Historical barriers to cervical cancer screening have included embarrassment and discomfort at the pelvic exam, lack of understanding about the importance of HPV or cervical cancer screening or underestimation of the risk of disease. Another barrier has been logistical. The time involved in attending clinic appointments was inhibitory.
Because it has been found, internationally, that women demonstrate a strong acceptance and preference of self-sampling, it is now accepted that self-sampling, as proposed by SelfCollect, is the preferred option. And self-collection may clearly increase cervical cancer screening participation. Women prefer self-collection for the reasons outlined above, and these samples using vaginal swabs have been shown to be comparable to clinician collected samples for HPV detection.
Also, women who self-collect are more motivated to undergo follow-up in the event of a positive HPV result. Coincidentally, more and more countries are recommending and accepting self-collection for HR-HPV testing as a means of removing barriers to cancer prevention.