Background to the research

Cervical cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in people with a cervix under 45 years of age in the UK. Cervical screening using Human Papillomavirus (HPV) testing is routinely offered to individuals with a cervix between the ages of 25 and 64 years via the NHS cancer screening programmes. However, in the UK people are going to cervical screening less and less, so that attendance is consistently below the 80% that is needed to lower cervical cancer.
There are lots of reasons people don’t go to cervical screening or find it hard to do so. Some are embarrassed, there can be a lack of available appointments or time to attend. Some of these issues could be addressed by providing the option of HPV self-sampling, where the person collects the sample for screening themselves.
This self-sampling option has an increasing amount of evidence to support it. Self-sampling is being used in cervical screening in a number of countries, such as Australia, and is now recommended by the European Cancer Organisation. There is not currently an offer in the UK for self-sampling in cervical screening, though there is research in the UK exploring the possibility.
However, although HPV self-sampling is similar in sensitivity (it is as likely detect HPV if it is there) as samples collected by a clinician it is slightly less specific (so it is slightly more likely to give a positive test without HPV being present). Previous research has found that some people worry about how much they can trust a sample they have taken themselves. So, it is not a straight forward decision.
If a choice between clinician collected and self-collected samples is given to people in the future, we need to know how best to support them to choose the method best suited to their individual needs and preferences.


This study is funded by Cancer Research UK

Aims of the Research

If self sampling is brought into the screening programme as an option it will be important for people to understand this choice and be supported to make a decision about which method is best for them. We aim to:
Paitent Questions
Paitent Questions
Explore needs and preferences of people who are eligible for cervical screening to make this decision by talking to them.
Paitent Questionning Doctor
Paitent Questionning Doctor
Understand how support for making this decision could be done in practice, by asking people involved with providing cervical screening (relevant stakeholders).
We will use this information to recommend how people could be told about a potential option of cervical screening and be supported to make the right choice for them. We will use the findings from this study to provide recommendations for the best way to communicate and support decisions about choice in cervical screening options.