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Future possibilities of HPV primary screening

With the introduction of HPV primary screening, it might be possible to move to less invasive testing methods than the current cervical screening method in the future.

New research is being done into the use of self-sampling as a method of HPV testing. Self-sampling means that women would be able to collect the sample themselves, in the privacy of their own home and in their own time, and then send the sample off to be tested. Several different types of self-sampling collection methods are being researched in order to find out which are able to give the most accurate and detailed results, while still being comfortable and easy to use. Some possible self-sampling collection methods include:

  • Fluid-based collection: where an applicator is inserted into the vagina and a saline solution is applied directly to the cervix. The fluid, which will now contain a sample of the cervical cells, is then collected using the same applicator, placed in a sample pot and returned [1]
  • Brush-based collection: where a brush, very similar to the one used in the current cervical screening test, is used to collect a sample of cells by the woman herself. The brush is then put in a sample pot, which contains liquid to help preserve the cells, and returned [1]
  • Tampon-based collection: where a tampon is inserted and left for a period of time (usually an hour) before removing. The tampon (along with its sample of cervical cells) is then placed into a sample pot, which contains liquid to help preserve the cells, and returned [2].

Research is also being done to see if urine testing can be used to check for high-risk HPV infections [3]. However, there is not enough evidence yet that this will be an effective method of testing.

If these methods of self-sampling for high-risk HPV become possible alternatives to the current method of cervical screening, it could help to reduce some of the barriers that currently stop some women from attending; such as embarrassment, discomfort or getting time off work. Hopefully, this would mean that more cases of cervical abnormalities would be caught before getting the chance to develop into cervical cancer.



  1. Szarewski A, 2009. Exploring the acceptability of two self-sampling devices for human papillomavirus testing in the cervical screening context: a qualitative study of Muslim women in London. J Med Screen 16(4), 193–198.
  2. Mnisi EF et al, 2013. Human papillomavirus DNA testing on self-collected vaginal tampon samples as a cervical cancer screening test in a Gauteng population. Southern African Journal of Gynaecological Oncology 5 (2 Supplement), S15–S20.
  3. Salter J, 2014. Revealing the true cost of cervical cancer…: Behind the screen. DEMOS, London, UK. www.demos.co.uk/files/Behind_the_screen_-_web.pdf?1402772155. Accessed: 06.07.2016.
Date last updated: 
07 Jul 2016
Date due for review: 
08 Jul 2019

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