Objectives: The study measured the acceptability of self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) testing in the context of cervical cancer screening. Women carried out self-sampling unsupervised, using a written instruction sheet.
Setting: Participants were women attending either a family planning clinic or a primary care trust for routine cervical screening.
Methods: Women (n = 902) carried out self-sampling for HPV testing and then a clinician did a routine cervical smear and HPV test. Immediately after having the two tests, participants completed a measure of acceptability for both tests, and answered questions about ease of using the instruction sheet and willingness to use self-sampling in the future.
Results: The majority of women found self-sampling more acceptable than the clinician-administered test, but there was a lack of confidence that the test had been done correctly. Significant demographic differences in attitudes were found, with married women having more favourable attitudes towards self-sampling than single women, and Asian women having more negative attitudes than women in other ethnic groups. Intention to use self-sampling in the future was very high across all demographic groups.
Conclusion: Self-sampling for HPV testing was highly acceptable in this large and demographically diverse sample, and women were able to carry out the test alone, using simple written instructions. Consistent with previous studies, women were concerned about doing the test properly and this issue will need to be addressed if self-sampling is introduced. More work is needed to see whether the demographic differences we found are robust and to identify reasons for lower acceptability among single women and those from Asian background.